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OP2325 Tipping points in the Amundsen Sea, Antarctica

   Department of Geography & Environmental Sciences

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  Dr Ronja Reese  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Sea-level rise is one long-lasting consequence of global warming, affecting coastal communities worldwide. The Amundsen Sea is of particular importance as it is the region in Antarctica where the rate of ice loss is currently greatest. A cause for particular concern is that its glaciers have so-called tipping points: if such a “point of no return” is crossed, the glacier will continue to retreat and contribute to sea-level rise over decades to centuries, even if warming were to be halted in the future.

At which warming level are these tipping points crossed? How do the tipping points compare for the different glaciers in that region? How fast is this tipping process? Are there tipping points that initiate a collapse of the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet? The aim of this project is to explore these questions using a combination of numerical ice flow modelling and early warning indicators, the latter being statistical measures that allow to anticipate tipping. For a more detailed explanation, see Rosier & Reese et al. 2021 (https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-15-1501-2021) and contact Ronja Reese ([Email Address Removed]).

During the PhD, you will learn about climate change, and it’s impacts on the Antarctic Ice Sheet, ice dynamics, ice flow modelling, theory of tipping points, early warning indicators, and ice-ocean interaction in Antarctica. You will be supported and encouraged to develop, based on initially gained knowledge, own ideas and deepen the understanding of tipping points in ice dynamics, and discuss your work at international conferences. You will be based in the Glaciology group at Northumbria University, collaborate with Newcastle University and closely linked to ongoing international projects (e.g., EU project TiPACCs with partners in France, Norway and Germany; the ITGC with partners in the USA and UK).

We want to particularly encourage applications from women, disabled and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic candidates.

Key Research Gaps and Questions:

The Amundsen Sea in Antarctica is among the fastest changing regions worldwide. Ice losses there raise sea-levels worldwide and could become nonlinear and irreversible in the future. But how close are its glacier to such tipping points? How many tipping points exist and under which conditions are they crossed for the different glaciers? Can the onset of tipping be anticipated? And how much sea-level rise will follow once a tipping point is crossed?


Helpful skills & knowledge (that can be also gained during the project): experience with ice flow or climate modelling, understanding of the climate system, non-linear system dynamics, programming experience (python, matlab, C++ or equivalent). Essential skills & knowledge: Mathematical understanding, e.g., a degree in maths, physics, statistics, or a related discipline.

How good is research at Northumbria University in Geography and Environmental Studies?

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