How does the Ocean Influence Glacial Melt in the Arctic and Antarctic?


How does the Ocean Influence Glacial Melt in the Arctic and Antarctic?


Project Description


Dr Rob Hall (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia) contact me

Professor Karen Heywood (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)

Dr Anna Wahlin (Department of Marine Sciences, University of Gothenburg)

Dr Marie Porter (Scottish Association for Marine Science)

Project Background

Greenland and Amundsen Sea (West Antarctica) glaciers are rapidly melting in response to recent climate warming and related changes in ocean circulation, increasing estimates of future sea level rise. However, these estimates are highly uncertain because we lack an understanding of the fundamental physical processes that accelerate glacial melt along the fronts of ice shelves and within sub-ice-shelf cavities. This PhD project will investigate the heat brought into contact with ice shelves by deep, but relatively warm, water masses on the continental shelf. You will observe and assess the important turbulent mixing processes that alter these water masses as they approach the ice shelves, while they recirculate beneath, and as they exit carrying glacial meltwater.

Research Methodology

To investigate these processes, you will use novel observations of ocean temperature, salinity, current velocity, and small-scale turbulence from the Amundsen Sea and Greenland fjords, both in front of and under the ice shelves. These unique measurements will be made from research ships, buoyancy-driven profiling floats and ocean gliders, and propeller-driven autonomous underwater vehicles. You will use these datasets to (a) quantify turbulent mixing of heat between water masses in contact with the ice shelves, (b) determine the type of instabilities that cause mixing, and (c) assess the impact of mixing on glacial melt.


You will have the opportunity to participate in a research cruise to the Amundsen Sea in 2021/22 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 visualisation, and, as part of the UEA Glider Group, be involved with the deployment and piloting of ocean gliders during upcoming field campaigns.

Person Specification

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 a computer programming language (e.g. Matlab, Python) will be an advantage. This project is suitable for candidates from numerical disciplines.


  • 1. Heywood, K. J., L. C. Biddle, L. Boehme, P. Dutrieux, M. Fedak, A. Jenkins, R. W. Jones, J. Kaiser, H. Mallett, A. C. Naveira Garabato, I. A. Renfrew, D. P. Stevens, and B. G. M. Webber, 2016: Between the devil and the deep blue sea: The role of the Amundsen Sea continental shelf in exchanges between ocean and ice shelves. Oceanography, 29(4), 118-129, doi:10.5670/oceanog.2016.104.
  • 2. Naveira Garabato, A. C., A. Forryan, P. Dutrieux, L. Brannigan, L. Biddle, K. J. Heywood, A. Jenkins, Y. Firing, and S. Kimura, 2017: Vigorous lateral export of the meltwater outflow from beneath an Antarctic ice shelf, Nature, 542, 219-222, doi:10.1038/nature20825.
  • 3. Hall, R. A., B. Berx, and G. M. Damerell, 2019: Internal tide energy flux over a ridge measured by a co-located ocean glider and moored acoustic Doppler current profiler. Ocean Science, 15, 1439–1453, doi:10.5194/os-15-1439-2019.
  • 4. Hall, R. A., T. Aslam, and V. A. I. Huvenne, 2017: Partly standing internal tides in a dendritic submarine canyon observed by an ocean glider. Deep-Sea Research Part I, 126, 73–84, doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2017.05.015.
  • 5. Polzin, K. L., A. C. N. Garabato, T. N. Huussen, B. M. Sloyan, and S. Waterman, 2014: Finescale parameterizations of turbulent dissipation, Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 119, 1383-1419, doi:10.1002/2013JC008979.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2021. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 12th January 2021.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£15,285 p.a. for 2020-21) and research funding. For the first time in 2021/22 international applicants (EU and non-EU) will be eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside significant relevant non-academic experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship click on the “Apply now” link below.

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