CO2 Uptake by the Southern Ocean: Using atmospheric measurements to understand the key processes


CO2 Uptake by the Southern Ocean: Using atmospheric measurements to understand the key processes


Project Description


Dr Parvadha Suntharalingam, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Dr Anna Jones, British Antarctic Survey (BAS)

Dr Andrew Manning, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Prof Corinne Le Quere, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia



The Southern Ocean plays a fundamental role in regulating global climate through uptake of heat and atmospheric carbon-dioxide (CO2), and removes  ~40% of atmospheric CO2 derived from human activity. Previous studies highlighted significant uncertainties in our estimates of this carbon uptake [Le Quéré et al. 2007, Landschutzer et al, 2018]. These CO2 flux estimates are derived from relatively few measurements, with wintertime oceanic data being particularly sparse due to difficult sampling conditions. A recent study, using newly available ocean biogeochemical float data, has suggested smaller wintertime CO2 uptake than previously believed, and questions our current understanding of the governing processes [Gray et al. 2018].

Air-sea fluxes of CO2 can also be estimated by ‘top-down’ inverse methods which combine atmospheric CO2 measurements with numerical model analyses [Suntharalingam et al. 2005]. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and other international agencies have been sampling atmospheric CO2 at sites in and around Antarctica. These atmospheric measurements are made year-round and provide valuable information on oceanic CO2 the Southern Ocean winter.  In this project you will use these atmospheric measurements together with inverse analysis methods to estimate air-sea fluxes over the Southern Ocean, with a focus on accurately characterising their seasonal variation.


The project builds on collaborations between UEA and BAS on the measurement and modelling of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.  At UEA you will work in Dr. Suntharalingam’s  biogeochemistry modelling group and with the carbon cycle measurement and modelling groups of Dr. Manning and Prof. Le Quéré.  At  BAS you will work in Dr. Jones’  atmospheric measurement group. You will be trained in carbon cycle science, numerical modelling and data analysis, and atmospheric trace-gas measurement methods. You will acquire skills in science communication, project management and collaborative research, and will be involved in a project of critical interest to climate science.


This project is suited for a candidate with a background in natural sciences, engineering or mathematics, with strong quantitative skills and interests in applying computational methods to a key climate science issue.


  • 1) Le Quéré, C., et al. (2007). Saturation of the Southern Ocean CO2 sink due to recent climate change, Science 316, 1735, doi: 10.1126/science.1136188.
  • 2) Landschutzer,P., et al. (2018). Landschützer et al. (2018) Strengthening seasonal marine CO2 variations due to increasing atmospheric CO2. Nature Climate Change. doi: 10.1038/s41558-017-0057.
  • 3) Gray, A., et al. (2018). Autonomous biogeochemical floats detect significant carbon dioxide outgassing in the high-latitude Southern Ocean, Geophys. Res. Letts., doi:10.1029/2018gl078013.
  • 4) Suntharalingam, P., et al. (2005). The influence of reduced carbon emissions and oxidation on the distribution of atmospheric CO2: Implications for inversion analyses, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 19, 4, doi: 10.1029/2005GB002466.
  • 5) Keeling, R. and A. Manning (2014). Studies of recent Changes in atmospheric O2 content, Treatise on Geochemistry: Second Edition. Vol. 5, p. 385-404.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.
  • 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 (see
  • This studentship will start on 1st October 2020, and the closing date for applications is 23:59 on 15th January 2020.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor.
  • Please note that the joint NERC-ESRC ARIES-SeNSS studentship projects have different deadlines and funding arrangements. For full details please visit, or contact

Studentship Open for Applications

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