Dr Rob Hall, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
Prof Karen Heywood, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
Prof Anna Wåhlin, Department of Marine Sciences, University of Gothenburg
The Amundsen Sea glaciers in West Antarctica are rapidly melting in response to recent climate warming and related changes in ocean circulation, increasing estimates of future sea level rise. However, these prediction are uncertain because we lack an understanding of the physical processes that accelerate glacial melt within the sub-ice-shelf cavity. This PhD project will investigate the heat brought into the cavity by deep, but relatively warm, water masses on the continental shelf. You will observe and assess the turbulent mixing processes that alter these water masses before they enter the cavity, while they recirculate beneath the ice shelf, and as they exit the cavity carrying glacial meltwater.
To investigate these processes, you will use observations of ocean temperature, salinity, current velocity, and small-scale turbulence from the Amundsen Sea, both along the fronts of the ice shelves and far beneath them. These measurements will be made from research ships, buoyancy-driven autonomous ocean gliders, and propeller-driven autonomous underwater vehicles that will travel many kilometres under the ice shelves. You will use these datasets to (a) quantify the turbulent mixing of heat between the water masses in and around the cavity, (b) determine the type of instabilities that cause the mixing, and (c) estimate its influence on glacial melt within the cavity.
You will have the opportunity to participate in a research cruise to the Amundsen Sea in 2020/21 and will collaborate with leading UK and US oceanographers, glaciologists and geophysicists as part of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration. You will gain valuable experience in observational oceanography and marine autonomy, be trained in advanced methods for data processing, analysis and visualization, and, as part of the UEA Glider Group, be involved with the deployment and piloting of ocean gliders during upcoming field campaigns.
The ideal candidate will have a physical science degree or similar (e.g. oceanography, meteorology, physics, environmental sciences, natural sciences, engineering, mathematics). A background in ocean science is not required, but experience with computer programming languages (e.g. Matlab, Python) will be an advantage. This project is suitable for a highly numerate candidate.