Simulating the uncertain future of the Antarctica Ice Sheet and the role of ice-ocean feedbacks (FAC22/EE/GES/DERYDT)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr Jan De Rydt  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing ice at an increasing rate, making it one of the largest contributors to present-day sea level rise. The rate of mass loss from Antarctica is strongly controlled by the capacity of its seaward floating extensions (or ice shelves) to buttress the grounded inland ice. Through thinning, retreat of the ice front and/or damage, ice shelves are losing their ability to restrain Antarctica’s grounded ice, with detrimental consequences for the future mass balance of the Ice Sheet.

Positive feedback loops between ice-shelf thinning, calving and speed-up have the potential to quickly accelerate mass loss. However, the existence of such feedbacks, the underlying physical conditions that would initiate them, and the consequences for Antarctica’s future mass balance, remain speculative and poorly understood. Only recently have numerical codes become available that allow us to investigate the complex feedbacks between the different processes and quantify their importance.

In this project, you will use state-of-the-art numerical codes that simulate the dynamics of Antarctica’s ice flow, coupled to a 3D representation of the ocean circulation beneath ice shelves

1.   To explore feedbacks between thinning of ice shelves and ocean-induced ice-shelf melting;

2.   To quantify the impact of changes in the ice-front geometry on ice-shelf melting;

3.   To implement temporal changes in ice-front geometry in a coupled ice-ocean model;

4.   To study mutual feedbacks between ice-shelf melting, calving and changes in flow dynamics of the upstream glaciers.

Your results will inform future model developments, with the overall aim to provide improved projections of Antarctic mass loss over the next decades to centuries.

You will be part of a world-leading team of glaciologists and oceanographers in the Department of Geography & Environmental Sciences at Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK. You will work closely with Associate Professor J. De Rydt and have the opportunity to work with and visit other leading research groups worldwide. Training will be offered in glaciology, oceanography and numerical modelling, and there will be an opportunity to attend summer schools in the Italian Alps and Paris to gain further skills in glaciology and oceanography. You will be encouraged to participate in UK and international scientific conferences to discuss with colleagues and to promote your research.

If you have strong numerical skills and a good background in physics, environmental sciences and programming, this project is well suited for you.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirements:

·        Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); OR a Master’s degree (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement. An undergraduate or MSc degree in physics, mathematics or environmental sciences is essential. 

·        Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

·        Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.

 For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, visit the link below: 

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDFC22/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 10 July 2023

Start Date: 1 October 2023

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff and students. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

For more informal enquiries, please contact Jan De Rydt ([Email Address Removed])

Environmental Sciences (13) Geography (17) Mathematics (25) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home, EU and International Students and includes a full stipend, paid for 3.5 years at UKRI rates (for 2023/4, this is £18,622 p.a.) and full tuition fees.


1. Bradley, A. T., Bett, D. T., Dutrieux, P., De Rydt, J., & Holland, P. R. (2022). The influence of Pine Island Ice Shelf calving on basal melting. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 127, e2022JC018621.
2. Naughten, K.A., De Rydt, J., Rosier, S.H.R. et al. Two-timescale response of a large Antarctic ice shelf to climate change. Nat Commun 12, 1991 (2021).
3. Rosier, S. H. R., Reese, R., Donges, J. F., De Rydt, J., Gudmundsson, G. H., and Winkelmann, R.: The tipping points and early warning indicators for Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica, The Cryosphere, 15, 1501–1516,, 2021.
4. De Rydt, J., Reese, R., Paolo, F. S., and Gudmundsson, G. H.: Drivers of Pine Island Glacier speed-up between 1996 and 2016, The Cryosphere, 15, 113–132,, 2021.
5. De Rydt, J., and Gudmundsson, G. H. (2016), Coupled ice shelf-ocean modeling and complex grounding line retreat from a seabed ridge, J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf., 121, 865– 880, doi:10.1002/2015JF003791.

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