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Observing the Antarctic Slope Undercurrent using ocean gliders (HEYWOODKU18ERC)

   School of Environmental Sciences

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  Prof K Heywood, Dr Gillian Damerell  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Physical processes on the continental shelf and slope around Antarctica are crucially important for determining future sea level rise, for setting the properties and volume of dense bottom water exported globally, and for regulating the carbon cycle. Yet our ability to model and predict these processes over future decades is still rudimentary. This lack of understanding originates from a paucity of observations in this inaccessible region. This PhD is part of the ERC-funded COMPASS project, in which we will use new technology – autonomous underwater vehicles called gliders – to observe and understand processes on the Antarctic shelf and slope.

The boundary between shelf waters and those offshore is marked by the Antarctic Slope Front, associated with a westward surface current. Beneath this, an eastward undercurrent, located on the continental slope, has been revealed by the limited observations in this region. The dynamics of the undercurrent are hypothesised though not yet demonstrated. It is believed to be almost circumpolar, and may play an important role in bringing warm water onto the continental shelf.

Research methodology
You will deploy profiling ocean gliders to characterise the slope undercurrent at various locations around Antarctica, supplemented by existing current meter records. You will use the data to assess the dynamics of the undercurrent, and will also determine its presence (or otherwise) in our cutting-edge ocean models.

You will be trained in physical oceanography, science communication, data analysis and programming in Matlab. You will learn oceanographic observational techniques through participation in research cruises and glider campaigns, and join the UEA glider science group (http://avf.uea.ac.uk/sea/).

Person specification
You will have a physical science degree and enthusiasm to observe and understand ocean processes. Experience of a programming language such as Matlab would be helpful.

For more information on the primary supervisor for this project, please go here: https://www.uea.ac.uk/environmental-sciences/people/profile/k-heywood

Type of project: PhD

Start date of project: 1st July 2018, 1st October 2018 or 1st January 2019

Mode of study: Full time

Entry requirements: Acceptable first degree: Physics, maths, oceanography, meteorology, natural sciences, environmental sciences, geophysics
The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1

Funding Notes

This studentship is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) for three and a half years. Full funding is available to EU applicants only, and includes Home/EU tuition fees, an annual stipend of £14,553 and some research costs.


i) Chavanne CP, KJ Heywood, KW Nicholls and I Fer (2010), Observations of the Antarctic Slope Undercurrent in the southeastern Weddell Sea, Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L13601, doi:10.1029/2010GL043603.
ii) Heywood KJ, RA Locarnini, RD Frew, PF Dennis and BA King (1998) Transport and water Masses of the Antarctic Slope Front System in the eastern Weddell Sea, in Ocean, Ice and Atmosphere: Interactions at the Antarctic Continental Margin, AGU Antarctic Research Series volume 75, (ed. S Jacobs), 203-214
iii) Walker DP, A Jenkins, KM Assmann, DR Shoosmith and MA Brandon (2013) Oceanographic observations at the shelf break of the Amundsen Sea, Antarctica, Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 118, 2906–2918, doi:10.1002/jgrc.20212.
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