Mitch D'Arcy

Assistant Professor

Accepting students


Geomorphology, sedimentary geology, palaeoclimate, geochronology, remote sensing.


I’m always open to applications from prospective graduate students and postdocs. Please get in touch if you're interested in working with me.

Please note that I am a member of the German Humboldt Foundation network, and I can host Feodor Lynen postdoctoral fellows. If you are a German PhD student looking for a postdoc abroad, please get in touch with me to discuss the possibility of applying for a Feodor Lynen fellowship.

Main Research Interests

I’m interested in how climate change affects landscapes, surface processes, and terrestrial sedimentary deposits. Part of my research looks at the sensitivity of surface processes to climate. I like to view surface processes as interlinked components of ‘sediment-routing systems’, which transfer sediment from erosional sources to depositional sinks. I’m interested in how climate change affects all parts of these systems, from erosional processes (like weathering, landslides and debris flows), to the ways climate signals are transmitted through landscapes and ultimately recorded by terrestrial sediments and landforms (for example moraines, alluvial fans, rivers and basin stratigraphy). At the same time, understanding how terrestrial sediments and landforms record climatic information opens up exciting possibilities to use them for palaeoclimate reconstruction. As such, I'm also interested in creative new ways that we can use landscapes to reconstruct past climate conditions and answer unresolved questions about climate dynamics.

Study Locations and Timescales

Much of my research is concentrated in two main regions, which are western North America and the Central Andes. Both of these areas have experienced pronounced and interesting hydroclimate changes over recent orbital timescales and are excellent settings for studying how surface processes react to climate forcing. I'm researching the way these landscapes responded to very abrupt climate shifts (such as the ~1 kyr Younger Dryas), precessional forcing (~23 kyr), and longer glacial-interglacial cycles (~100 kyr). I'm also involved in projects in other locations, including southern Italy and Crete in the Mediterranean, and longer timescales, such as how river geometry adjusts to climate over ~Myr timescales, and stratigraphy from deeper geological time.

Mountain Catchments and Alluvial Fans

Mountain catchments and alluvial fans are short, simple sediment-routing systems in which sediment is quickly mobilised and deposited. As a result, they have the potential to react sensitively to rapid climate changes. I'm researching (1) the fundamental mechanics of how these simple systems respond to changes in climate, and (2) applied opportunities for reconstructing palaeoclimate from alluvial fans (focusing on their architecture and sedimentology). Catchment-fan systems may have simple geometries, but they can preserve complex climatic signals (such as storm rainfall intensity) and require careful quantitative analysis.

Late Quaternary Geochronology

We cannot link landforms or sediments to past climate changes (or indeed tectonic events, such as landscape uplift or fault linkage) unless we can accurately estimate their ages. I primarily work with cosmogenic-nuclide exposure dating, and in this area I'm working on both conventional applications and developing new methods for interpreting cosmogenic-nuclide data and addressing their biases. At the same time, absolute dating techniques can be time-consuming and expensive, so in parallel I'm developing new tools for relative-dating and correlating the ages of geomorphic surfaces. Examples of these tools include field-based chronometers such as weathering fractures in boulders, and remotely-sensed weathering indices that can be used to estimate the ages of late Quaternary sediments in arid environments.

Latest Research Highlight

I was lucky enough to work with Prof. Taylor Schildgen during my postdoc in Germany. Taylor has a new paper out, available here, which creatively combines different approaches (thermochronology, cosmogenic nuclides, and modelling) to quantify how orographic rainfall caused migration of a drainage divide in the Central Andes. Check it out!

From March 2020 Assistant Professor Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia, Canada
2016 - 2020 Postdoctoral Researcher and Alexander von Humboldt Fellow University of Potsdam and GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Germany
2015 Teaching Fellow (Maternity Cover) Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London, UK
2011 - 2015 PhD in Geomorphology Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London, UK
2006 - 2010 MSci in Geology Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London, UK


Graduate Students

PhD Geological Sciences
PhD Geological Engineering

Schildgen, T.F., van der Beek, P.A., D'Arcy, M., Roda-Boluda, D., Orr, E.N., Wittmann, H. (2022) Quantifying drainage-divide migration from orographic rainfall over geologic timescales: Sierra de Aconquija, southern Central Andes. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 579, 117345.

Mey, J., D'Arcy, M., Schildgen, T.F., Egholm, D.L., Wittmann, H., Strecker, M.R. (2020) Temperature and precipitation in the southern Central Andes during the last glacial maximum, Heinrich Stadial 1, and the Younger DryasQuaternary Science Reviews, 248, 106592.

Brooke, S.A.S., D’Arcy, M., Mason, P.J., Whittaker, A.C. (2020) Rapid multispectral data sampling using Google Earth Engine. Computers and Geosciences, 135, 104366.

D’Arcy, M., Schildgen, T.F., Turowski, J.M., DiNezio, P. (2019) Inferring the timing of abandonment of aggraded alluvial surfaces dated with cosmogenic nuclides. Earth Surface Dynamics, 7, 755-771.

D’Arcy, M., Schildgen, T.F., Strecker, M.R., Wittmann, H., Duesing, W., Mey, J., Tofelde, S., Weissmann, P., Alonso, R.N. (2019) Timing of past glaciation at the Sierra de Aconquija, northwestern Argentina, and throughout the Central Andes. Quaternary Science Reviews, 204, 37-57.

Roda-Boluda, D.C., D’Arcy, M., Whittaker, A.C., Gheorghiu, D., Rodés, A. (2019) 10Be erosion rates controlled by transient response to normal faulting through incision and landsliding. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 507, 140-153.

Brooke, S., Whittaker, A.C., Armitage, J., D’Arcy, M., Watkins, S. (2018) Quantifying sediment transport dynamics on alluvial fans from spatial changes in grain size, Death Valley, California. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 123, 2039-2067.

D’Arcy, M., Mason, P.J., Roda-Boluda, D.C., Whittaker, A.C., Lewis, J.M.T., Najorka, J. (2018) Alluvial fan surface ages recorded by Landsat-8 imagery in Owens Valley, California. Remote Sensing of Environment, 216, 401-414.

Roda-Boluda, D.C., D’Arcy, M., McDonald, J., Whittaker, A.C. (2018) Lithological controls on hillslope sediment supply: Insights from landslide activity and grain size distributions. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 43, 956-977.

D’Arcy, M., Roda-Boluda, D.C., Whittaker, A.C. (2017) Glacial-interglacial climate changes recorded by debris flow fan deposits, Owens Valley, California. Quaternary Science Reviews, 169, 288-311.

D’Arcy, M., Whittaker, A.C., Roda-Boluda, D.C. (2017) Measuring alluvial fan sensitivity to past climate changes using a self‐similarity approach to grain‐size fining, Death Valley, California. Sedimentology, 64, 388-424.

Cheng, A., Tyne, R., Kwok, Y.T., Rees, L., Craig, L., Lapinee, C., D’Arcy, M., Weiss, D.J., Salaun, P.,  (2016) Investigating arsenic contents in surface and drinking water by voltammetry and the method of standard additions. Journal of Chemical Education, 93, 1945-1950.

Allen, P.A., Michael, N.A., D’Arcy, M., Roda-Boluda, D.C., Whittaker, A.C., Duller, R.A., Armitage, J.J. (2015) Fractionation of grain size in terrestrial sediment routing systems. Basin Research, 29, 180-202.

Allen, P.A., Armitage, J.J., Whittaker, A.C., Michael, N.A., Roda-Boluda, D.C., D’Arcy, M. (2015) Fragmentation model of the grain size mix of sediment supplied to basins. Journal of Geology, 123 (5), 405-427.

D’Arcy, M., Roda-Boluda, D.C., Whittaker, A.C., Carpineti, A. (2015) Dating alluvial fan surfaces in Owens Valley, California, using weathering fractures in boulders. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 40, 487-501.

D’Arcy, M., Whittaker, A.C. (2014) Geomorphic constraints on landscape sensitivity to climate in tectonically active areas. Geomorphology, 204, 366-381.

D’Arcy, M., Bullough, F., Moffat, C., Borgomeo, E., Teh, M., Vilar, R., Weiss, D.J. (2013) Adsorption of oxy-anions in the teaching laboratory: An experiment to study a fundamental environmental engineering problem. Journal of Chemical Education, 91 (4), 505-510.

D’Arcy, M., Weiss, D., Bluck, M., Vilar, R. (2011) Adsorption kinetics, capacity and mechanism of arsenate and phosphate on a bifunctional TiO2-Fe2O3 bicomposite. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 364 (1), 205-212.