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Climate Change Institute

Terence Hughes

Professor Emeritus, Climate Change Institute & School of Earth and Climate Sciences

Terence Hughes

Contact Information


University of Maine

Research interests

My educational background is metallurgy as an undergraduate, expanded into materials science as a graduate student. The material that engages my research interest is glacial ice, particularly the large ice sheets that mantle Greenland and Antarctica. This and related work have taken me to the Arctic ten times and the Antarctic thirteen times since 1968, mostly as the principal investigator of NSF-funded glaciological research. Within glaciology, my primary research interest is the dynamics of ice streams, which are fast currents of ice that drain about 90 percent of present-day ice sheets and which may have been the conduits through which deglaciation of Quaternary ice sheets was accomplished, in large part. My major research tool for studying ice streams is aerial and satellite remote sensing of their surface elevation and velocity which, with data on ice thickness and mass balance, provide input to numerical models of ice dynamics developed in cooperation with my colleague, Dr. James Fastook.

The overall goal of our glaciological research is to understand the interaction between glaciation and climatic change. In pursuing this goal, glacial geology and paleomarine micropaleontology provide information we use as input to our computer models for simulating the dynamics of past and present ice sheets. In interpreting these data, we work closely with our colleagues, Dr. George Denton and Drs. Thomas and Davida Kellogg. We also maintain close contact with research conducted at Columbia, Princeton, and Brown universities on paleoclimates, and The Ohio State University, the University of Chicago, and NASA-Wallops Flight Center on glaciological research in polar regions.

Current modeling research, in collaboration with Fastook and David Bromwich at Ohio State, is simulating abrupt changes in the former Laurentide Ice Sheet that may have been large enough and fast enough to cause abrupt climate change. Newly funded research is modeling abrupt changes in the Jakobshavns drainage system of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Planned Antarctic research consists of studying Byrd Glacier as a rock-floored ice stream, in collaboration with Fastook and NASA, and participating in the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition traverse from Byrd Station (120°W, 80°S) to South Pole Station (90°S), in collaboration with Paul Mayewski and Gordon Hamilton, for the purpose of measuring how much East Antarctic ice is entering West Antarctica.


  • Hughes, T., 2003, The Geometrical Force Balance in Glaciology. Journal of Geophysical Research, 108(B11): 2526-2543.
  • Reusch, D., and Hughes, T., 2003. Surface "waves" on Byrd Glacier. Antarctic Science, in press.
  • Wilch, E., and Hughes, T.J., 2000. Calculating basal thermal zones beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Journal of Glaciology,vol. 46, no153, p.297-310.
  • Denton, G.H., and Hughes, T.J., 2000. Reconstruction of the Ross ice drainage system, Antarctica, at the last glacial maximum. Geografiska Annaler,vol. 82A, no.2-3, p.143-166.
  • Grosswald, M.G., Hughes, T.J., and Lasca, N.P.,1999. Oriented Lake-and-ridge assemblages of the Arctic coastal plains: glacial landforms modified by thermokarst and solifluction. Polar Record, vol.35, no.194, p.215-230.
  • Grosswald, M.G., and Hughes, T.J., 1999. The case for an ice shelf in the Pleistocene Arctic Ocean. Polar Geography, vol.23, no.1, p.23-54.
  • Hughes, T.J., 1998. Ice Sheets, Oxford University Press, New York, 343 pages.

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