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Mechanisms that drive freshwater export from the nearshore environment

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Hopkins
    Dr J Cooper
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This is an extract of the research project. Simply click on “Apply on-line” above for an instant access to the complete version.

Aims and objectives

The project aims to identify the physical processes and their interactions that determine the fate of fresh water around the UKs diverse coastlines. This national scale understanding will directly inform the prediction of water quality in UK coastal waters and agencies tasked with managing associated risks.

The objectives of the project are to:

(1) Identify the controlling parameters that influence the structure and behavior of different freshwater plumes: wind and wave conditions, near shore bathymetric slope/geometry, tidal amplitude, oceanic density structure, freshwater flux (timing and magnitude) and buoyancy contribution.

(2) Determine the different sets of meteorological and hydrological conditions necessary for extremes in offshore freshwater transport around the UK (e.g. high river discharge plus an upwelling favorable wind)

(3) To assess how multiple freshwater inputs combine to modify transport pathways and potentially influence a wider area of coastal water.

(4) Assess the importance of terrestrial hydrological models in accurately modelling near shore salinity and input from small streams and the subsequent impact this may have on simulating plume behavior.

Data and methods

The project will draw on observational, modelling and remotely sensed data sets. The legacy dataset available from the decade-long Liverpool Bay Coastal Observatory will be used to test current coupled modelling capability in simulating a complex fresh water plume environment. Observed offshore intrusions will be hind-cast and the dominant mechanisms determining the plumes structure and propagation isolated. To upscale improvements in our understanding to the national level, remotely sensed data and model simulations will be used to identify plume-regimes around the UK and the key triggers that promote extremes in fresh water flux in different regions.


The student will receive training in running numerical models, high performance computing, analysis of large observational data sets, scientific writing and presentation. The student will participate in the doctoral training programme of the University of Liverpool as well as appropriate courses offered at the National Oceanography Centre. The student will be encouraged to apply for international training schools and will attend at least one international and a number of national conferences to present their work. They will be expected to attend the diverse range of workshops and seminars within the University and National Oceanography Centre.

The student will visit and regularly collaborate with the Environment Agency to translate their scientific results into evidence for policy makers. Their work will contribute to wider activities on UK Environmental Prediction, which aims to more closely integrate tools for improved predictions, science and services into the latest operational forecasting systems. The student will be encouraged to engage with that project and collaborators at the Met Office, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, NOC and Plymouth Marine Laboratory, for example through attending project meetings. The student will receive direct support from Met Office scientists, including a number of visits to the Met Office during their studies to facilitate training on applying the UK Environmental Prediction systems, support pull-through of their work to operational systems and to report on progress.

Funding Notes

Competitive tuition fee, research costs and stipend (£14,056 tax free) from the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership “Understanding the Earth, Atmosphere and Ocean” (DTP website: led by the University of Liverpool, the National Oceanographic Centre and the University of Manchester. The studentship is granted for a period of 42 months. Further details on eligibility, how to apply, deadlines for applications and interview dates can be found on the website. EU students are eligible for a fee-only award.


Hopkins, J., Polton, J. A., 2012. Scales and structure of frontal adjustment and freshwater export in a region of freshwater influence. Ocean Dynamics. 62(1), 45-62.

Brown, J.M., Amoudry, L.O., Souza, A.J., Rees, J. (2015), Fate and pathways of dredged estuarine sediment spoil in response to variable sediment size and baroclinic coastal circulation, Journal of Environmental Management, 149:209-221.

Yankovsky, A. E., Chapman, D. C., 1997. A simple theory for the fate of buoyant coastal discharges. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 27(7):1386–1401.

Palmer, M. R., Polton, J. A., 2011. A strain-induced freshwater pump in the Liverpool Bay ROFI. Ocean Dynamics, 61 (11). 1905-1915.

Howlett, E. R., 2010. Processes contributing to the evolution and destruction of stratification in the Liverpool Bay ROFI. Bangor University, School of Ocean Sciences, PhD Thesis.

Liverpool Bay Coastal Observatory:


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