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Is Arctic sea ice getting smoother and does it matter? - MScR in Global Environmental Challenges

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Landy
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

About The Project
We have observed unprecedented changes in the Arctic’s sea ice cover over recent decades. The area covered by sea ice at the end of summer has declined by over 13% per decade and the amount of thick, old ice in the Arctic has almost halved. Developing techniques to forecast the pattern and rate of ice melt in summer is a key goal of climate research. If open water areas can be predicted in advance, then we can understand how and when the Arctic marine ecosystem will evolve in summer, how climatically important gases such as CO2 move between the air and ocean, and provide safe routes for the passage of ships through ice-infested seas.

Recent research has shown that the new seasonal Arctic ice cover might be getting smoother [Landy et al., 2015; Martin et al., 2016]. Sea ice surface roughness controls the drag of air and ocean on the ice, the repartitioning of snow and meltwater ponds on the ice, and affects retrievals of key properties such as ice thickness from satellite sensors. In particular, smoother sea ice may allow melt ponds to spread over a much larger area of the ice surface – reducing the ice albedo in summer and accelerating the rate of ice melt [Landy et al., 2015]. This could be a key feedback process in the sea ice albedo feedback, which has been identified as the major driver of amplified climate warming at the North Pole.

The student on this project will generate the first record of sea ice surface roughness covering the period 2011-2018 from the European Space Agency satellite Cryosat-2. They will be able to apply a newly-developed University of Bristol model for the Cryosat-2 echo waveform to generate roughness information with exceptional accuracy. The student will then be tasked with analysing trends and patterns in roughness over the past decade – for example, has sea ice roughness continued to get smoother? And if so, is it continuing to accelerate the rapid melt out of the Arctic’s ice cover? It will be up to the student to take the project in the direction which most excites them.

Why Choose This Opportunity
Join a state-of-the-art project on a hot scientific topic: the fate of the rapidly-changing Arctic sea ice cover. Training will be provided to understand, analyse and intercompare the satellite observations. Arctic fieldwork may be possible in summer 2020 through collaborators in Canada (funding dependent).

About You
It is ideal that you will have some experience with computer programming (Python, Matlab, R), but most importantly that you are motivated & passionate to pursue a cutting-edge project focused on one of the most rapidly-changing environments of our planet: Arctic sea ice.

About the programme
The Cabot Institute Masters by Research is a unique opportunity to work with a leading supervisor to deliver a one-year research project that you are passionate about. The programme will bring together exceptional students from all backgrounds with a common mission – protecting the planet and securing our future. As well as learning from your supervisor, you will learn from your fellow students; coming together to share your ideas and developing your problem-solving skills as part of an interdisciplinary team over the year. As well as being hosted within the Cabot Institute you will have a direct relationship within the relevant School for your research area, allowing you to fully take advantage of a wide-ranging research community.
Alongside your research project, you will benefit from a unique personal development and transferable skills training schedule. These unaccredited, optional events will give you the opportunity to come together with your peers to improve your research skills and develop an innovative approach to the global challenges we face today. You will also be encouraged to propose your own interests for a seminar series, giving you a unique platform to mould your studies and get involved directly with the programme. The training schedule will focus on:
• Interdisciplinarity & Collaboration
• Innovation & Enterprise
• Making your research a success
• Research communications
• Ignite your interests (your chance to propose ideas for a seminar series)
You will also gain access to the Cabot Institute’s network of experts across academia, government, business and industry via networking events. These opportunities will not only support your research, but give you the edge in your future career, whatever that may be.

Funding Notes

Programme fees per year:
UK/EU Full time £6950, Part time £3560
Overseas Full time £21700, Part time £11100

How good is research at University of Bristol in Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 46.45

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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