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Drivers of Greenland Ice Sheet mass balance during the Medieval Warm Period – Little Ice Age transition (EE/DRFGEO7P/61936)

Department of Geography & Environmental Sciences

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Dr L Wake No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) is expected to be a major contributor to sea-level change in the coming centuries. However, despite extensive observational and modelling analyses, there is insufficient understanding about mechanisms that affect ice sheet mass balance over multi-decadal to century timescales. This knowledge is paramount if we are to correctly apportion the causes of changes in the cryosphere between natural variation and anthropogenic sources. Consequently, this has direct implications for the accurate forecasting of sea-level change. Field observations from Greenland suggest that the western section of the GrIS may well have been in a state of negative mass balance since ~1600AD - coinciding with the Little Ice Age (LIA) and also a marked change in North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) state (Wake et al. 2012) and significantly earlier than the onset of significant global temperature increases.

The primary aim of this project is to quantify the influence of the NAO and/or Medieval Warm Period (MWP)-LIA transition on the mass balance of the GrIS during the last millennium. This will be achieved by forcing a glaciologically-consistent 3D thermomechanical ice sheet model of the GrIS with an ensemble of climate model output available from, but not limited to, the PMIP3 project. The candidate will utilise the expanding database of proxy sea-level data collected from Greenland salt marshes to constrain regional changes in ice loading by computing the solid Earth and geoid response to the deglacial history of the Greenland Ice Sheet during the MWP, through the LIA and up to the present day.

It is essential that applicants can demonstrate substantial experience of Fortran and Unix-based computing languages. Experience of Python and MATLAB is desirable but not essential.

Enquiries regarding this studentship should be made to: Dr. Leanne Mary Wake, [Email Address Removed], 0044 191 2437814

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see
Please ensure you quote the advert reference above on your application form.

Funding Notes

The full-time studentship provides full support for tuition fees, and an annual tax-free stipend at RCUK rates (for 2015/16 this is £14,057 p.a.)


WAKE, L. M. and Marshall, S. J. (2015, accepted; in press): ‘Assessment of current methods of Positive Degree-Day calculation using in-situ observations from glaciated regions’ Journal of Glaciology

Lecavalier, B. S, Milne, G.A., Simpson, M. J. R., WAKE, L. M., Huybrechts, P., Tarasov, L., Kjeldsen, K. K., Funder, S., Long, A. J., Woodroffe, S. A., Dyke, A., Larsen, N. K (2014) ‘A model of Greenland Ice Sheet deglaciation based on observations of ice extent and relative sea level’, Quaternary Science Reviews, 102, 54-84.

WAKE, L.M., Milne, G.A., Long, A.J., Woodroffe, S.A., Simpson, M.J.R. & Huybrechts, P. (2012). ‘Century-scale relative sea-level changes in West Greenland — A plausibility study to assess contributions from the cryosphere and the ocean’. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 315-316, 86-93.
Long, A.J., Woodroffe, S.A., Milne, G. A., Bryant, C.L., Simpson, M.J.R. and WAKE, L. M. (2012) ‘Relative sea-level change in Greenland during the last 700 years and ice sheet response to the Little Ice Age’. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 315-316, 76-85.

Simpson, M. J. R., WAKE, L. M., Milne, G. A., Huybrechts, P (2011). ‘The influence of decadal- to millennial-scale ice mass changes on present-day vertical land motion in Greenland: Implications for the interpretation of GPS observations’. Journal of Geophysical Research, 116, B02406, doi:10.1029/2010JB007776.
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