Ocean-atmosphere-ice interactions on the Antarctic continental shelf


Ocean-atmosphere-ice interactions on the Antarctic continental shelf


Project Description


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

Professor Tom Bell, Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Dr Rob Hall, University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Sciences


Project background

The Southern Ocean is a critical component of the global climate system, where heat is lost from the ocean to the atmosphere, strong winds stir and mix the waters, and sea ice forms and melts. These processes combine to make the ocean water sufficiently dense to descend into the deep ocean, sequestering carbon, so the interaction between ocean, ice and atmosphere is critical to get right in our climate models.  However these interactions are poorly quantified and challenging to model, so better observations are needed (reference 1). This project aims to make key observations in a location rarely accessed, the continental shelf of Antarctica, as part of a major UK project named PICCOLO.

Research Methodology

You will calculate heat and freshwater fluxes from observations made during the exciting PICCOLO field campaign using a range of autonomous vehicles deployed on the Antarctic continental shelf in the western Weddell Sea. This will include temperature, salinity, velocity and turbulent mixing from a fleet of ocean gliders (references 2,3), together with atmospheric measurements from an autonomous surface vehicle Caravela (reference 4). These high spatial- and temporal- resolution but short-duration measurements will be complemented by year-long time series of ocean measurements from profiling floats and a mooring. You will use idealised numerical models to interpret the observations and explore the physical processes of sea ice formation and melting, wind mixing and surface cooling.


This project will provide you with a thorough training in physical oceanography, data analysis,

and interactions between ocean, ice and atmosphere. You will have the opportunity to participate in a Southern Ocean field campaign to gain oceanographic observational expertise, and to pilot ocean gliders. You will join the multidisciplinary PICCOLO science team, and collaborate with PICCOLO scientists at other UK and international institutions. The project will equip you for a wide variety of careers, e.g. ocean/climate research, marine industries, consultancy.

Person specification

You will be keen to learn about the physics of the ocean and its interactions with the atmosphere and with ice.  You will have studied natural sciences, physics, mathematics, oceanography, meteorology or environmental sciences, and have good numerical skills. Some programming experience is desirable.


  • Heywood, K.J., S. Schmidtko, C. Heuze, J. Kaiser, T.D. Jickells, B.Y. Queste, D.P. Stevens, M. Wadley, A.F. Thompson, S. Fielding, D. Guihen, E. Creed, J.K. Ridley, W. Smith (2014) Ocean processes at the Antarctic continental slope, Phil Trans. Roy. Soc. A, 372, 20130047. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2013.0047
  • Thompson, A.F., K.J. Heywood, S, Schmidtko and A.L. Stewart (2014) Eddy transport as a key component of the Antarctic overturning circulation, Nature Geoscience, 7, 879-884, doi:10.1038/ngeo2289
  • Biddle, L. C., J. Kaiser, K. J. Heywood, A. F. Thompson, and A. Jenkins (2015) Ocean glider observations of iceberg-enhanced biological production in the northwestern Weddell Sea, Geophys. Res. Lett., 42, 459–465, doi:10.1002/2014GL062850.
  • Siddle, E., Heywood, K., Webber, B. & Bromley, P., (2021) First measurements of ocean and atmosphere in the Tropical North Atlantic using Caravela, a novel uncrewed surface vessel, Weather. 76, 6, 200-204

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2023. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 19th May 2023.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£18,622 p.a. for 2023/24) and research funding. Please note that all international awards have been made for our programme for 2023 so we will not be accepting applications from international candidates,
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences, on top of all Research Costs associated with the project. 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.
  • 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 non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past 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 follow the instructions at the bottom of the page or click the 'apply now' link.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.

Applications are open

Apply now