The Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the role of bathymetry, eddies and sea ice


The Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the role of bathymetry, eddies and sea ice


Project Description


Prof David Stevens, University of East Anglia – Contact Me

Dr David Munday, British Antarctic Survey

Dr Xiaoming Zhai, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Dr Emma Young, British Antarctic Survey

Scientific background

The Southern Ocean is a critical component of the global climate system, providing a pathway between the major ocean basins and accounting for about 75% of global ocean heat uptake. Bathymetry provides a strong constraint on ocean circulation with major currents, such as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current of the Southern Ocean, being bathymetrically steered. Despite its importance, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is not well represented in state-of-the-art climate models. As models become more detailed and represent finer scales of motion, such as mesoscale eddies, there is less certainty in the accuracy of bathymetric observations, and how flows will interact with overly smooth or overly rough, bottom bathymetry.

Research Methodology

The aim of this project is to combine ocean model resolution and bathymetry changes to examine a range of problems relevant to current trends in ocean and climate model design. For instance, how sensitive is the volume transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to the representation of bathymetry? You will assess the role and representation of bathymetry in ocean circulation using a hierarchy of models. You will also examine how the inclusion of mesoscale eddies influences bathymetric interactions and steering of ocean currents. In each case you will determine the impact on ocean heat and salinity, sea-ice and thus model climate.


You will join a team of ocean and climate modellers at UEA, British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge and Met Office in Exeter (CASE partner). The project will provide you with a thorough training in ocean dynamics and numerical ocean modelling. You will learn to use state-of-the-art computer systems to rigorously analyse large model datasets. You will gain valuable practical experience from CASE work with the Met Office. There will be opportunities to attend summer schools. You will present your work at national and international conferences. There may also be an opportunity to undertake fieldwork to gain an appreciation of observational data.

Person specification

We seek an enthusiastic candidate with strong scientific interests and self-motivation. They will have a degree in physics, mathematics, oceanography, meteorology, or climate science with good computing and numerical skills.


  • Graham, R.M., A.M. de Boer, K.J. Heywood, M.R. Chapman and D.P. Stevens (2012): Southern Ocean fronts: Controlled by wind or topography?, Journal of Geophysical Research, 117, C08018, doi:10.1029/2012JC007887.
  • Hogg, A.M. and D.R. Munday (2014): Does the sensitivity of Southern Ocean circulation depend upon bathymetric details? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 372, doi:10.1098/rsta.2013.0050.
  • Ivchenko, V.O., K.J. Richards and D.P. Stevens (1996): The Dynamics of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 26, 753-774, doi:10.1175/1520-0485(1996)0262.0.CO;2.
  • Patmore, R.D., P.R. Holland, D.R. Munday, A.C. Naveira Garabato, D.P. Stevens, M.P. Meredith (2019): Topographic Control of Southern Ocean Gyres and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current: A Barotropic Perspective, Journal of Physical Oceanography, 49, 3221-3244, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-19-0083.1.
  • Roberts, M.J., A. Baker, E.W. Blockley, D. Calvert, A. Coward, H.T. Hewitt, L.C. Jackson, T. Kuhlbrodt, P. Mathiot, C.D. Roberts, R. Schiemann, J. Seddon, B. Vannière and P.L. Vidale, (2019): Description of the resolution hierarchy of the global coupled HadGEM3-GC3.1 model as used in CMIP6 HighResMIP experiments,

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 11th January 2023.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£17,668 p.a. for 2022/23) and research funding. International applicants are eligible for fully-funded ARIES studentships including fees. Please note however that ARIES funding does not cover additional costs associated with relocation to, and living in, 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, 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