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CO2 Uptake by the Southern Ocean: Using atmospheric measurements to understand the key processes (SUNTHARALINGAMUENV20ARIES)

Project Description


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 strong quantitative skills and interests in applying computational methods to a key climate science issue.

More information on the supervisor for this project:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time or part-time
Studentship length: 3.5 years
Eligibility requirements: First degree in Natural Sciences, Engineering or Maths

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.

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.

For further information, please visit View Website


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.

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.

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.

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.

Keeling, R. and A. Manning (2014). Studies of recent Changes in atmospheric O2 content, Treatise on Geochemistry: Second Edition. Vol. 5, p. 385-404.

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