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Some theories are more equal than others: A Bayesian approach to glacial-interglacial changes in ocean carbon storage

Project Description

Earth’s climate has undergone large transitions between cold “glacial” and warm “interglacial” stages. These transitions are associated with changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations; significantly more carbon was probably stored in the deep ocean in glacial times, likely influencing these glacial-interglacial transitions themselves [1]. A robust understanding of glacial climates and carbon storage is key to characterising the fundamentals of the Earth’s climate system, yet we lack a clear picture of this feedback loop for both past and future.

A suite of palaeo-records (proxies) are available to test and constrain theories for glacial climates, particularly for the more recent past, such as the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Many physical and biogeochemical mechanisms have been proposed to explain low glacial CO2, which collectively more than account for the observed changes. The question then becomes: what combination of different mechanisms and their interactions is the most likely explanation of the observed paleorecords? A quantitative answer to this basic question is outstanding. Bayesian statistics provide a natural framework in which to estimate the relative contributions of different processes to ocean carbon storage, as well as uncertainties in these contributions, and thus have the potential to transform our understanding of glacial-interglacial transitions and glacial climates.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click View Website for more information on eligibility and how to apply


[1] Sigman, D. M., & Boyle, E. A. (2000). Glacial/interglacial variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Nature, 407(6806), 859. [2] Jansen, M. F., & Nadeau, L. P. (2019). A Toy Model for the Response of the Residual Overturning Circulation to Surface Warming. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 49(5), 1249-1268. [3] Betancourt, M. (2017). A conceptual introduction to Hamiltonian Monte Carlo. arXiv preprint arXiv:1701.02434.

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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