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Modelling the lithosphere and dynamic topography of the Antarctic continent

Project Description

Despite being a key piece of the puzzle for global tectonic reconstructions, Antarctica remains the least understood continent on Earth. Constraining the structure and composition of the Antarctic lithosphere is essential, as the lithosphere forms the cradle on which its vast ice sheets flow. In addition, we also need to quantify the effects of dynamic topography related to deeper mantle processes, in the quest to unravel the origin and evolution of several unique features in Antarctica, such as the West Antarctic Rift System, the Transantarctic Mountains, the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains, and the huge intra-cratonic basins in East Antarctica. This project will analyse the latest generation continental-scale gravity and magnetic anomaly compilations, together with satellite gravity gradient, satellite magnetic and seismological datasets for Antarctica. With the aid of recent advances in 3D geophysical modelling, the project aims to enhance our knowledge of the fundamental crustal and lithospheric architecture of the continent and provide key new insights into dynamic topography effects in Antarctica.

This project aims to transform the current level of knowledge of Antarctica, by producing state of the art 3D models and interpretations of crustal and lithospheric architecture in relation to major tectonic processes and by modelling the space-time evolution of dynamic topography. The project will lead to a better understanding of the role of Antarctica in the supercontinent cycle, will help constrain paleotopography and key geological boundary conditions (such as geothermal heat flux) for Antarctic ice sheets, and will derive key new assessments of the influence of dynamic topography effects.

The student will analyse and model data from recent international Antarctic geophysical data compilations. These include the recent AntGG gravity data compilation and the ADMAP 2.0 magnetic data compilation, augmented by new datasets collected in the latest campaigns e.g. over South Pole. Satellite gravity gradient and satellite magnetic anomaly data will also be used in lithospheric modelling. The potential field data interpretation will rely on the development of new 2D and 3D models of crustal and lithospheric architecture and composition, complemented by the latest independent seismological constraints available. The student will also utilise global seismological and mantle flow models and analyse subglacial topography to help aid reconstructions of the evolution and influence of dynamic topography processes in Antarctica.

Funding Notes

UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements will be eligible for a full NERC studentship. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award. More information can be found in the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions
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Ferraccioli, F., Finn, C.A., Jordan, T.A., Bell, R.E., Anderson, L.M., Damaske, D. 2011. East Antarctic rifting triggers uplift of the Gamburtsev Mountains. Nature, 479, 388-392.
Scheinert, M., Ferraccioli, F., and 13 others 2016. New Antarctic gravity anomaly grid for enhanced geodetic and geophysical studies. Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 600–610, doi:10.1002/2015GL067439.
AV Golynsky, F Ferraccioli, and 30 others 2018. New magnetic anomaly map of the Antarctic. Geophys, Res. Lett., 45, 6437–6449. 2018GL078153.

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