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Drivers of seasonality contrasts in sea surface temperature and freshwater flux within the Intertropical and South Indian Ocean Convergence Zone – Holocene and present (CENTA2-SGGE12-ZINK2)

Project Description

The Scattered Islands are unique coral reef atolls located in the southwestern Indian Ocean along the climatologically important South Equatorial Current and Mozambique Channel ocean gateway. The latter is one of the crucial global surface ocean thermohaline circulation pathways transporting heat and salt from the Indian Ocean to the South Atlantic (Beal et al., 2011). Furthermore, the southern Scattered Islands (Europa) are located within the South Indian Ocean Convergenze Zone (SICZ) which controls sea level pressure and circulation anomalies that deliver moisture to Madagascar and Sub-Saharan Africa (Fig. 1; Barimalala et al., 2019). The SICZ behaves in anti-phase to the Intertropical Convergenze Zone (ITCZ) which controls rainfall over the tropical latitudes of the Indian Ocean and Equatorial Africa and northern Madagascar. Improved knowledge of the anti-phase behaviour in rainfall producing systems in the western Indian Ocean across varying climate boundary conditions would be of enormous value to understand drivers of droughts and floods affecting African societies (Tierney et al., 2015).

We aim to fill an important data gap in seasonal meteorological and oceanographic processes through retrospective monitoring of climate change from modern and fossil coral geochemistry and calcification records. We will assess changes in seasonality, as well as interannual and decadal time scale climate variability for the Common Era and the Holocene from massive corals in a low human footprint context of the Scattered Islands. We will thereby generate vital knowledge on seasonal climate variables that is currently missing from low resolution sediment core studies along this globally important ocean current route. We will target Europa Island where we have drilled living massive Porites spp. and Last Millenium/Holocene boulders from storm deposits during a research cruise with the vessel Marion Dufresne II in April 2019.

To understand the ITCZ vs SICZ anti-phase behaviour, we will contrast our data from subtropical Europa Island with new cores from Mauritius (similar latitude as Europa) and published data from the Seychelles (under the ITCZ; Zinke et al., 2014). We will make use of a suite of climate model simulations to quantify the influence of changing orbital conditions on the ITCZ and SICZ.

Entry Requirements:

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.

Available for UK and EU applicants only.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility: http://www.nerc.ac.uk/skills/postgrad/

How to Apply:

Please follow refer to the How to Apply section at http://www2.le.ac.uk/study/research/funding/centa/how-to-apply-for-a-centa-project and use the Geography Apply button to submit your PhD application.

Upload your CENTA Studentship Form in the proposal section of the application form.

In the funding section of the application please indicate you wish to be considered for NERC CENTA Studentship.

Under the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisor and project title/project code you want to apply for.

Funding Notes

This project is one of a number of fully funded studentships available to the best UK and EU candidates available as part of the NERC DTP CENTA consortium.

For more details of the CENTA consortium please see the CENTA website: View Website.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility: View Website

The studentship includes a 3.5 year tuition fee waiver at UK/EU rates

An annual tax free stipend (For 2019/20 this is currently £15,009)

Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) of £8,000.


Barimalala, R., Desbiolles, F., Blamey, R. C., & Reason, C. (2018). ‘Madagascar influence on the South Indian Ocean Convergence Zone, the Mozambique Channel Trough and southern African rainfall.’ Geophysical Research Letters, 45,11,380–11,389.

Beal, L. M., et al. (2011) ‘On the role of the Agulhas Current in global climate’, Nature, 472, 429-436.

Hennekam, R., Zinke, J., ten Have, M., Brummer, G.J.A. and Reichart, G.-J. (2018) ‘Cocos (Keeling) corals reveal 200 years of multi-decadal modulation of southeast Indian Ocean hydrology by Indonesian Throughflow’, Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, 33, doi: 10.1002/2017PA003181.

Hopcroft, P. et al. (in preparation), Transient simulations of the Holocene: role of convection-vegetation coupling for abrupt biome shifts in North Africa.

Tierney, J., Ummenhofer, C., Demenocal, P. B. (2015) ‘Past and future rainfall in the Horn of Africa’, Sci. Adv. 2015, 1:e1500682, DOI:10.1126/sciadv.1500682

Tindall, J, Vales, P. & Sime, L (2010), Stable water isotopes in HadCM3: Isotopic signature of El Nino–Southern Oscillation and the tropical amount effect, J Geophys Res, 114, D04111.

Zinke, J., Pfeiffer, M., Park, W., Schneider, B., Reuning, L., Dullo, W.-Chr., Camoin, G. F., Mamgini, A., Schroeder-Ritzrau, A., Garbe-Schönberg, D. and Davies, G. R. (2014) ‘Seychelles coral record of changes in sea surface temperature bimodality in the western Indian Ocean from the Mid-Holocene to the present.’ Climate Dynamics 43 (3), 689-708.

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