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Ocean drivers of Antarctic ice shelf melt and sea level rise: Understanding future changes (WEBBERBU19SCI-AFFJ)

Project Description

Sea level rise will threaten the livelihoods of over one billion people living close to coastlines and is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century. However, predicting future sea level is highly uncertain; debate about the future contribution of meltwater from Antarctica, which could contribute more than 1m of sea level rise by 2100i, is particularly intense. The most rapid melting occurs in West Antarctica, where relatively warm water from the open ocean reaches the shallow seas in front of the retreating glaciersii. This supply of warm water is highly variableiii, and may change in response to an increase in Antarctic meltingiv. More research is needed to predict future changes.

You will use existing simulations from state-of-the-art climate models to investigate how the ocean will influence Antarctic ice melt during the 21st century. It is crucial to assess how well models simulate key ocean processes. To do this, you will explore how the glacier-ward flows of warm water vary between different models that have different spatial resolution and different representation of ocean-ice interactions. You will use the latest international observations from around Antarctica to perform process-based model evaluation, comparing the models and reality. Your work will improve our understanding of how glaciers in Antarctica will contribute to future sea level rise, with the potential for your findings to feed into future international assessments of climate-induced sea level rise.

You will join an active research group in meteorology, oceanography and climate at UEA. You will be trained in modelling the climate system and you will learn to use state-of-the-art computer systems to rigorously analyse large model and observational datasets. You may also have the opportunity to participate in oceanographic fieldwork around Antarctica.

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here:
The type of programme: PhD
The start date of the project: Oct 2019
The mode of study: Full-time
Acceptable first degree in any numerate, physical science degree. Physics, meteorology, oceanography, applied mathematics, natural sciences, geography, geophysics, environmental sciences. Minimum entry requirements is 2:1.

Funding Notes

This PhD studentship is jointly funded for three years by Faculty of Science and The Amar-Franses and Foster-Jenkins Trust. Applications are open to UK/EU applicants only and funding comprises home/EU tuition fees, an annual stipend of £14,777 and £1000 per annum to support research training.


i) DeConto, R. M., & Pollard, D. (2016). Contribution of Antarctica to past and future sea-level rise. Nature, 531, 591. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature17145
ii) Heywood, K. J., Biddle, L. C., Boehme, L., Fedak, M., Dutrieux, P., Jenkins, A., … Webber, B. G. M. (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, 80-90. https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2016.104
iii) Webber, B. G. M., Heywood, K. J., Stevens, D. P., Dutrieux, P., Abrahamsen, E. P., Jenkins, A., … Kim, T. W. (2017). Mechanisms driving variability in the ocean forcing of Pine Island Glacier. Nature Communications, 8, 14507. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms14507
iv) Webber, B.G., K.J. Heywood, D.P. Stevens, and K.M. Assmann (2018). The impact of overturning and horizontal circulation in Pine Island Trough on ice shelf melt in the eastern Amundsen Sea. J. Phys. Oceanogr., Published online. https://doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-17-0213.1

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