Course Syllabus

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Semester & Location:

Summer 2022, Session 2 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 Credits

Study Tour:


Major Disciplines:

Environmental Science, Geography, Geology


One mathematics course at university level.

Faculty Members:

Susanne Lilja Buchardt -

Program Contact:

Embla Thorsdottir

Time & Place:


Course Description

The response of ice sheets and glaciers to future climate changes remains a large source of uncertainty in projections of future sea-level changes. This course will provide students with a basic understanding of glaciers and their role in the climate system. We will cover topics like glacier mass balance, the transformation from snow to ice, ice flow, and the conditions required for glaciers to form and ‘survive’. A significant part of the course will consist of student projects, where students will be exploring and further developing a simple computer model to investigate the behavior of glaciers.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course you will be able to

  • Explain the role of glaciers in the global climate system
  • Identify and describe the processes that determine/govern the mass balance of a glacier
  • Identify and describe the processes that determine/govern the shape of glaciers
  • Use simple glacier models to investigate the response of glaciers to changes in climate
  • Explain key processes of importance when modeling glaciers
  • Identify areas of uncertainty in the contribution from glaciers to future sea-level rise


Susanne Lilja Buchardt: PhD in Glaciology (University of Copenhagen). Educated at Centre for Ice and Climate, Niels Bohr Institute and works with ice core analysis and ice flow models. Participated in ice core drillings in Greenland and Antarctica since she was a grad student. With DIS since 2013.


All readings are provided by DIS through the Canvas course page. Main readings come from the following sources:

Textbooks (abbreviations used in the lecture plan are in parentheses):
Benn and Evans (B&E): Glaciers and Glaciations, 2nd edition, 2010.
Cuffey and Paterson (C&P): The Physics of Glaciers, 4th edition, 2010.
C. Dym (Dym): Principles of Mathematical Modeling, 2004.
Hambrey and Alean (H&A): Glaciers, 2nd edition, 2004.
P. Knight (Knight): Glaciers, 1999.
S. Marshall (Marshall): The Cryosphere, 2012.

Other required texts
AMAP, 2017. Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) 2017. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), Oslo, Norway. xiv + 269 pp.

IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of
Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Björnsson and Pálsson: Icelandic glaciers, Jökull 58, 2008

Björnsson et al.: Surges of glaciers in Iceland, Annals of Glaciology 36, 82-90, 2003.

Grindsted et al.: Sea level rise projections for northern Europe under RCP8.5, Clim Res Vol. 64: 15–23, 2015.

Pattyn: GRANTISM: An ExcelTM model for Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheet response to climate changes, Computers & Geosciences 32 (2006) 316–325.


Lectures, group work, discussions, field studies, student projects and presentations.

Study Tour

Students will travel to Iceland, where they will study the glaciers first-hand. Planned activities include visits to the glacier tunnel in Langjökull glacier and the geothermal exhibition at Hellisheidi power station. Furthermore, studetns will interact with local researchers who monitor and model the glaciers and study how glaciers have shaped the landscape of South Iceland.


To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work. The overall grade will come from the following:


Participation (20%): Students are expected to participate in all classes and field studies. Furthermore, active participation in class is required in order to get a good grade for participation. Examples of active student participation: volunteer to sum up key points from last class (2-3 min), ask questions about readings, lectures etc., start and/or participate in class discussions relating to the subjects treated.

Study tour assignment (30%): A selection of questions and assignments to be carried out during the six-days study tour to Iceland. The study tour assignment is designed to contextualize the experiences in Iceland with the course material in general and the student projects in particular.

Student Project (50%): Student projects will be carried out in small groups. Each group will choose a subject and use and further develop an existing glacier model to investigate this subject. The final product will be a group report and an individual short video presentation of the project results. Required elements of each project is that students familiarize themselves with the model they are using and give a thorough description and evaluation of the model and the assumptions it is based on.

Academic Regulations 

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:



Course Summary:

Date Details Due