Jonny Kingslake


Assistant Professor

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Columbia University





Henry Ice Rise, 2015

79.98° S, 060.49° W



I grew up in Reading UK, 20 minutes by train from London. I went to Chiltern Edge Secondary School (11-16yrs) and Henley Sixth Form College (17-18yrs).

After two years of working and backpacking I went to The University of York, UK, to study undergraduate physics. My final year project was on the nucleation of freezing in supercooled water, supervised by Dr Richard Keesing. We scattered a laser through droplets of supercooled water to observed freezing as it was initiated by the application of an electric field. 


In 2009 I was awarded a University Scholarship and started a PhD in glaciology in the Department of Geography at Sheffield University, supervised by Dr Felix Ng. I wrote a thesis entitled 'Modeling ice-dammed lake drainage' (pdf). I used mathematical models to study how water flows beneath glacier (see research section).

In 2013 I started as a Glacier Geophysicist at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), Cambridge, UK. I was employed on a NERC-funded project led by Richard Hindmarsh. We used radar and mathematical models to study present-day and past ice flow in West Antarctica. 

In March 2016 my wife and I moved from the UK to start my current position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. I am continuing my research in Glaciology and teaching undergraduate and graduate students. I collaborate with members of the Polar Geophysics Group here at Lamont, and colleagues from Sheffield (e.g. J. Ely, S. Livingstone), BAS (e.g. A. Brisbourne, C. Martín) and elsewhere.

Research Highlights

My research is focused on modelling and observing the flow of ice and water in ice sheets and glaciers.

Subglacial hydrology

During my PhD I studied the flow of water beneath glaciers and ice sheets through the development and analysis of mathematical models. I studied how ice-dammed lakes fill and drain beneath glaciers, showing how simple models can be used to predict approximately when lakes will drain, lakes can fill and drain chaotically and lakes affect the flow of glaciers through their impact on subglacial water pressures.

The Nye Attractor. This anaglyph, viewable with 3D glasses, shows the chaotic behavior of a model glacial lake. This is a section of an infinitely long curve called an attractor. It shows the evolution of a model glacial lake as it fills and drains, chaotically. The curve's distance along the vertical black axis is the flow out of the lake, its distance from the axis is the lake's depth and its rotation round the axis is time. It is named for the British glaciologist John Nye who devised the model in 1976. This anaglyph is designed to be viewed with 3D glasses. Kingslake, J. Chaotic dynamics of a glaciohydraulic model. J Glac. (61)227.

Glacier geophysics

My work at the British Antarctic Survey focused on using radar to constrain present and past ice flow in the Ronne Ice Shelf region of West Antarctica. We used a phase-sensitive radar system to measure an ice-dynamical phenomenon called the Raymond Effect. 

Ice-sheet history

In a paper from 2016, we used phase-sensitive radar and GPS to infer vertical and horizontal ice flow fields throughout the thickness of Korff Ice Rise, West Antarctica. We used these englacial flow fields with radar observations of internal layers within the ice rise to show that the flow of his part of the ice sheet underwent a reorganization around 2-3 kyr ago. Continued research into the history of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is bringing together geophysical and sedimentological data with ice-sheet modelling, to understand large-scale change during the last few thousand years. 

Supraglacial hydrology

Though my PhD work was focussed on lakes that drain subglacially (beneath glaciers and ice sheets), I was also interested in surface melt ponds and how they drain supraglacially (across the surface of the ice). Both subglacial and supraglacial drainage can involve flow paths that grow due to frictional melting from the flowing water, so some aspects of these two types of drainage are similar. I modelled the physics of supraglacial drainage, finding that melt ponds can drain stably or unstably over the surface of the ice. Which style of drainage occurs depends on factors like the size and shape of ponds and the input to the lake from its catchment. This is potentially significant because these factors may vary systematically as the climate changes, and drainage style fundamentally impacts the amount of water that is drained towards the ocean. This work is published here.

At Lamont I have been able to revisit supraglacial hydrology. Throughout 2016 I, along with Lamont colleagues, explored the supraglacial hydrology (i.e. hydrology that goes on on the surface of ice) of Antarctica. This has been exciting because only a few previous studies have looked at water moving across the surface of Antarctica, but we concluded that surface water flow potentially has an important role to play in the future of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. 

In two papers (here and here) recently published in Nature, and summarized in the same issue (here), we showed that water has been moving long distances onto and across many Antarctic Ice Shelves for many decades (possibly much longer). Our research is now focussed on understanding how these drainage systems operate and how they develop under changing environmental conditions. Julian Spergel, a PhD candidate in the Earth and Environmental Sciences department here at Columbia, is leading this work.

This animation shows a series of images taken by NASA's LANDSAT7 satellite. Over a period of around 3 1/2 weeks this large pond on Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica, inundated an area of 55 square kilometers. 

This animation shows a series of images taken by NASA's LANDSAT7 satellite. Over a period of around 3 1/2 weeks this large pond on Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica, inundated an area of 55 square kilometers. 

These observations of widespread supraglacial hydrology in Antarctica are interesting because as the continent warms, water could either move into areas where it can cause ice shelves to collapse, or it could evacuate water into the oceans as shown by one of our papers. The movie below, taken from a helicopter, shows a large water fall at the front of the Nansen Ice Shelf. 


Kingslake, J., J.C. Ely, I. Das, & R.E. Bell (2017) Widespread movement of meltwater onto and across Antarctic ice shelves. Nature544(7650), 349-352. (pdf)

Bell, R.E., W. Chu, J. Kingslake, I. Das, M. Tedesco, K.J. Tinto, C.J. Zappa, M. Frezzotti, A. Boghosian & W.S. Lee (2017) Antarctic ice shelf potentially stabilized by export of meltwater in surface river. Nature544(7650),344-348. (pdf)

Livingstone, S.J. , W. Chu, J.C. Ely & J. Kingslake (2017) Palaeofluvial and subglacial channel networks beneath Humboldt Glacier, Greenland. Geology, G38860-1. (pdf)

Kingslake, J., C. Martín, R.J. Arthern, H.F.J. Corr & E.C. King. (2016) Ice-flow reorganization in West Antarctica 2.5 kyr ago dated using radar-derived englacial flow velocities. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, doi:10.1002/2016GL070278. (pdf)

Matsuoka, K. & 19 others (including J. Kingslake) (2015) Antarctic ice rises and rumples: their properties and significance for ice-sheet dynamics and evolution. Earth Sci. Rev., 150, 724-745. (pdf)

Evatt, W.E, D. Abrahams, M. Heil, C. Mayer, J. Kingslake, S.L. Mitchell, A.C. Fowler & C.D. Clark (2015) Glacial melt under a porous debris layer. J. Glaciol., 61(229), 825-836. (pdf)

Kingslake, J. (2015) Chaotic dynamics of a glaciohydraulic model. J. Glaciol., 61(227), 493. (pdf)

Kingslake, J., F. Ng & A. Sole (2015) Modelling channelized surface drainage of supraglacial lakes. J. Glaciol., 61(225), 185-199. (pdf)

Kingslake, J., R.C.H. Hindmarsh, G. Aðalgeirsdóttir, H. Conway, H.F.J. Corr, F. Gillet-Chaulet, C. Martín, E.C. King, R. Mulvaney & H.D. Pritchard. (2014) Full-depth englacial vertical ice-sheet velocities measured using phase-sensitive radar. J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf., 119, 2604–2618. (pdf)

Livingstone, S.J., C.D. Clark, J. Woodward & J. Kingslake (2013) Potential subglacial lake locations and meltwater drainage pathways beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Cryosphere, 7(6), 1721-1740. (pdf)

Siegert, M., N. Ross, H.F.J. Corr, J. Kingslake & R.C.H. Hindmarsh (2013) Late Holocene ice-flow reconfiguration in the Weddell Sea sector of West Antarctica. Quat. Sci. Rev., 78, 98-107. (pdf)

Kingslake, J. and F. Ng (2013) Quantifying the predictability of the timing of jökulhlaups from Merzbacher Lake, Kyrgyzstan. J. Glaciol., 59(217), 805-818. (pdf)

Kingslake, J. and F. Ng (2013) Modelling the coupling of flood discharge with glacier flow during jökulhlaups. Ann. Glaciol., 54(63), 25-31. (pdf)


Field observations are an essential part of my research. I have been part of field expeditions to Southern Norway, Svalbard and Greenland, andled two expeditions in Antarctica. 


During two austral summers I spent two months traveling across the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in a team of two (a mountaineer and I), conducting measurements of the ice flow using GPS and ice-penetrating radar.  

During my first Antarctic field season, my field safety expert,  Iain Rudkin, was also an amazing photographer. See some of Iain's photography from Antarctica and elsewhere here. Even after 12+ hours on a snow mobile, Iain somehow found the energy to get out of the tent and capture whatever nice clouds (not scenery as we were in the flat-white) that were outside. When we got back I put his timelapse photography together with some videos of my own and arranged them over a composition by Steve Massey, written while at the British research base, Rothera:


In April/May 2017 I spent four weeks traversing across the Greenland Ice Sheet as part of an NSF-funded project to investigate refreezing of meltwater in snow and firn. The project is led by Asa Rennermalm, Regine Hock and Marco Tedesco. More details soon. Meanwhile, here are some photos:

Also, here is a movie showing some pretty windy conditions that we encountered on the ice sheet.



I have been lucky to be involved with various outreach activities at Sheffield and BAS and this has continued at Lamont, with regular outreach events including the Women in STEM event at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, the Earth-Sun Day at the American Museum of Natural HistoryHudson River Sailing Community Sailing Club and Lycée Français de New York school. The biggest outreach event of the year for Lamont-Doherty is our Open House.

At the American Museum of Natural History we played with 'glacier goo' to show visitors how glaciers flow. I captured the flow of this home-made 'viscous fluid' in time-lapse video using a smart phone:



Recent travels include backpacking around the Philippines and a road trip across the United States. Our route across the US was approximately this. Below are some photos from some recent trips.