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Ocean and ice: fresh water budget of the Amundsen Sea, Antarctica (HEYWOODUENV21ARIES)

School of Environmental Sciences

About the Project

Scientific Background

Seawater can be freshened by addition of melted ice or precipitation, influencing ocean circulation. To estimate future changes to this circulation and thus climate, it is important that we understand the fresh water budget and its impacts. In Antarctic shelf seas, the sources of fresh water (melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, sea ice melt, and local precipitation) are poorly quantified. This project aims to quantify and assess the variability of the fresh water budget of the Amundsen Sea, Antarctica. This is a region where large ice shelves are losing mass rapidly, contributing to global sea level rise.

Research Methodology

You will exploit two exciting new data sets to assess the fresh water budget. The first is temperature and salinity from several years of sensors glued to the fur of seals through the TARSAN project, with which you will be associated. The second is output from state-of-the-art, high-resolution models run by Japanese collaborators, who will join your supervisory team. You will determine the different sources of fresh water added to the model Amundsen Sea. You will use in situ observations to calculate seasonal and interannual changes in fresh water, and compare these with estimates of sea ice production/melt, ice shelf melt and atmospheric input. You will determine the relative importance of the different sources of fresh water, thus providing critical information to improve climate models.


You will have the opportunity to participate in a research cruise to the Amundsen Sea in 2021/2022 and to deploy and pilot ocean gliders during UEA Glider Group field campaigns. You will collaborate with leading UK and international oceanographers and glaciologists as part of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration. You will gain valuable experience in observational oceanography, and be trained in numerical modelling and advanced methods for data processing, analysis and visualisation.

Person Specification

You should have a physical science degree (e.g. oceanography, meteorology, physics, environmental sciences, natural sciences, engineering, mathematics). A background in ocean science is not required, but experience with a computer programming language (e.g. Matlab, Python) will be an advantage. This project is suitable for candidates from numerical disciplines.

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here

This is a PhD programme.

The start date is 1st October 2021.

The mode of study is full or part time (visa restrictions may apply).

The studentship length is 3.5 years.

Funding Notes:

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP.

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria are awarded a NERC studentship covering fees, stipend (£15,285 p.a., 2020-21) and research funding. International applicants (EU/non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.

Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses.

ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside significant relevant non-academic experience.

For further information, please visit

Funding Notes

Entry Requirements:
Acceptable first degree in Physical Sciences, Oceanography, Meteorology, Physics, Environmental Sciences, Natural Sciences, Engineering or Mathematics.


1. Heywood, K. J., L. C. Biddle, L. Boehme, P. Dutrieux, M. Fedak, A. Jenkins, R. W. Jones, J. Kaiser, H. Mallett, A. C. Naveira Garabato, I. A. Renfrew, D. P. Stevens, and B. G. M. Webber, 2016: Between the devil and the deep blue sea: The role of the Amundsen Sea continental shelf in exchanges between ocean and ice shelves. Oceanography, 29(4), 118-129, doi:10.5670/oceanog.2016.104.

2. Mallett, H.K.W., Boehme, L., Fedak, M., Heywood, K.J., Stevens, D.P., Roquet, F. (2018) Variation in the distribution and properties of Circumpolar Deep Water in the eastern Amundsen Sea, on seasonal timescales, using seal‐borne tags, Geophysical Research Letters, 45(10), 4982-4990

3. Nakayama, Y., Manucharyan, G., Zhang, H. et al. Pathways of ocean heat towards Pine Island and Thwaites grounding lines. Sci Rep 9, 16649 (2019).

4. Nakayama, Y., Menemenlis, D., Zhang, H. et al. Origin of Circumpolar Deep Water intruding onto the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Sea continental shelves. Nat Commun 9, 3403 (2018).

5. Biddle, L. C., Loose, B. & Heywood, K. J. (2019) Upper ocean distribution of glacial meltwater in the Amundsen Sea, Antarctica, Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 124, 6854– 6870.

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