Liam Taylor

Liam Taylor

Profile

I am a PhD student focussing on identifying novel methods for monitoring mountain glaciers. Mass loss from mountain glaciers contributes to sea-level rise, water scarcity in alpine communities, and geomorphic hazards. In the tropical Andes alone, almost 4 million people rely on glaciers for water supply during drought. Mountain glaciers present unique challenges for Earth observation, but a new generation of high resolution remote sensing techniques may help better understand the responses of glaciers to changes in the climate, and provide a monitoring system for water resources and natural hazards. This project studies three pioneering remote sensing techniques, applied to the Southern Peruvian Andes:

Low-cost, near-real time photogrammetry of mountain glaciers

Autonomous photogrammetry, where point cloud data is acquired and processed without an operator present, is in its infancy, but the potential is significant. Technological advances in telecommunications and image acquisition mean that it is now possible to create an automated-SfM technique for monitoring ice margin dynamics in near real-time. Using low-cost Raspberry Pi sensors, I will prove the potential to create science-grade repeated 3D models of a glacier terminus in near real-time to allow for autonomous monitoring of calving events or long-term recession.

Multi-decadal glacier area and mass balance change in the Southern Peruvian Andes

Glaciers across Southern Peruvian Andes are rapidly losing mass in response to recent climate warming, threatening the water supply to over 1.2 million people and posing an increase risk of hazards to communities living in close proximity to the ice. However, these areas are comparatively understudied and there have been no recent (post-2010) evaluations of ice loss. Using the Landsat and ASTER archives, together with novel processing techniques and cloud computing, I have extended the record of glacier change from 1975 to 2020, quantified the uplift in the equilibrium line altitude across the region, and provided the first mass balance calculation of these regions. 

Altimetry in Mountainous Regions

The original ICESat mission proved the possibility to derive elevation change from a number of mountain glaciers, but the technique has yet to be adopted widely for use in long-term glacial monitoring. The recent launch of Sentinel-3 (ESA) and ICESat-2 (NASA) both mark a fundamental shift in satellite technology in vastly improved spatial or temporal resolutions. I will test the performance of Sentinel-3 and ICESat-2 over mountain glaciers, to identify whether altimetry is a viable technique for quantifying long-term, regional-scale mass loss.

Funding

NERC SPHERES DTP

Our Autonomous Structure-from-Motion work is kindly supported by the Geographical Club Award and Dudley Stamp Memorial Award of the Royal Geographical Society, Mount Everest Foundation, Gilchrist Educational Trust,  Priestley Climate Centre, and water@leeds.

Climate Outreach

Outside of my PhD, I work in outreach and public engagement, largely themed around the science and solutions of climate change. I have visited schools across the UK, working with students aged 5-18, as part of my virtual reality session – The Reality of Climate Change. Here, I use virtual reality headsets to transport pupils to areas affected by climate change to invoke a sense of empathy and begin chatting about solutions. You can find out more about this session at this link. This session has also been adapted to be displayed at COP26. I also work with the University of Exeter to produce free online courses on Climate Science and Solutions (available here). Please get in touch if you’d like to know more, or for a climate-themed session in your school.

The Reality of Climate Change session is kindly supported by the Centre for Immersive Technologies, the School of Geography, and I’m a Scientist… Get Me out of Here!

Student Education

I am a lecturer on the first-year module Planet Under Threat, and also contribute to teaching in remote sensing (L2 and Masters level), GIS (L2), statistics (L2), and the cryosphere (L3). I also have lecturing experience in Environmental Hazards and GIS.

Research interests

  • Impacts of climate change on the cryosphere
  • Glacier and ice sheet monitoring
  • Remote Sensing
  • Climate Change education
  • Virtual Reality in teaching

Qualifications

  • MSc by Research Geography, University of Leeds
  • BSc Geography, University of Exeter

Research groups and institutes

  • River Basin Processes and Management