Paleoclimate and Glaciers – Alice Doughty

Current Research

Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda


I want to know:

Did the tropics cool by the same magnitude and at the same time as mid-latitudes during the last ice age?

Which climatic factors are tropical glaciers most sensitive to?

Is it possible for high alpine regions to experience an amplified cooling/warming relative to lower elevations?


I started working in the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda/D.R. Congo (on the Equator in the heart of Africa) in 2013 to model glaciers in the Rwenzori during the Last Glacial Maximum (aka last Ice Age, ~20,000 years ago). I never thought I would do glacier research in Africa, but Equatorial glaciers and their ancient deposits tell a story that could be key to understanding natural climate variability and the cause of ice ages.  I have been fortunate enough to travel to the Rwenzori Mountains (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) twice and am looking forward to discovering more about tropical paleoclimate with my colleagues at Brown University and Dartmouth College.


Fun Facts:

–  Margherita Peak is the highest peak in the Rwenzori and is higher than any mountain in the contiguous US

–  There are still glaciers in Uganda today

–  It takes ~6.5C of sustained cooling to achieve an ice age extent of Rwenzori glaciers


Cameron Glacier, New Zealand


I want to know:

Are avalanche-fed glacier more or less sensitive to warming than glaciers that are only fed by snowfall?

Could moraines represent random noise in the climate system rather than a period of glacier-climate equilibrium?

How does the geometry of a valley influence the terminus fluctuations of a glacier?


I first visited the Cameron River valley in 2006 as an undergraduate field assistant. There is something magical about this valley!  I returned during my Masters research to help collect rock samples to date moraines.  I then designed a PhD project with the Cameron Glacier at the core of the study.  I became fascinated with/terrified of snow avalanches, crevasses, and frostbite, but had great experiences on the glacier!


Fun Facts:

–  There are over 3,000 glaciers in New Zealand

–  Moraines are like bathtub rings, they mark the extent of where glaciers once reached

–  New Zealand and Maine are at similar latitudes (~45deg)