Professor Anne Mather (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth)
Professor Fin Stuart (Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, University of Glasgow)
Dr Sarah Boulton (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth)
This project investigates the size, timing and impact of African Humid Period (AHP) palaeofloods on upland landscapes along the Sahara Desert margins. Wobbling of the Earth’s axial spin alters atmospheric circulation patterns every ~20,000yrs, repeatedly bringing wetter climates and flooding (~5,000yr duration) to continental Africa (‘Greening’ of the Sahara). Investigations will analyse mountain fronts from different latitudinal and continentality contexts using Quaternary-Recent alluvial fans (cone-shaped sediment bodies formed on valley sides and mountain fronts). These landforms possess flood-related sedimentary and geomorphological records with significant but unrealised large spatial and long temporal potential to inform on climate change sensitive drylands; areas of early human occupation (archaeology) and modern population pressures (flood hazard).
Research will investigate key sites along the western Saharan Desert margin (offshore islands (humid), coastal (arid) and inland (hyperarid): Cape Verde-Morocco: 14-28°N). AHP flood size quantification requires measurement of flood sediments (boulder size) and geomorphology (slope and flood inundation area). This involves fieldwork and satellite GIS analysis of palaeoflood and modern (for comparison / model calibration) flood sites using hydrological modelling approaches (e.g. flood regime). The timing of palaeoflood events uses cosmogenic exposure dating techniques (i.e. 3He, 10Be, 26Al) applied to boulder surfaces deposited from different palaeoflood events. The impact of localised alluvial fan AHP flooding will utilise inter-site comparisons and comparisons with hydrological change datasets from other AHP archives (rivers, lakes, marine cores).
The PhD candidate will become a flood scientist with a field-laboratory-computing skillset of relevance to environmental government agencies or industry consultancy employment. Specialist training in remote sensing, fieldwork, geochronology, and hydrological modelling will utilise Plymouth/Glasgow expertise and laboratories (SUERC). Generic research training skills will be undertaken via the ARIES/Plymouth doctoral training colleges (project management, health and safety, data management, research communication / publishing). The candidate will become a member of international flood science networks (INQUA) for conference results communication and advanced training workshop opportunities.
This PhD is suitable for candidates with degrees in Geology / Earth Science / Physical Geography. Fieldwork and GIS experience is desirable. A willingness to travel and rise to the challenge of working in hot / remote desert locations is essential.