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Submarine Landslide Dynamics and Impact on Offshore Wind Infrastructure

   Department of Engineering

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  Dr Wangcheng Zhang, Prof William Coombs, Prof Charles Augarde  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This PhD scholarship is offered by the Aura Centre for Doctoral Training in Offshore Wind Energy and the Environment; a partnership between the Universities of Durham, Hull, Newcastle and Sheffield. The successful applicant will undertake a PG-Dip training year at the University of Hull and will continue their PhD research at Durham University.

For more information visit Or if you have a direct question about the project, please email [Email Address Removed] and we will forward the query to the relevant supervisor. Please do not contact the project supervisors directly.

The over-arching aim of the project is to explore post-failure mobility of submarine landslides and quantify their impact on offshore wind infrastructure. By multiphase and multiscale modelling of subaqueous landslides with analytical, and numerical approaches, this research helps decision makers manage safe offshore renewable developments.

Submarine landslides are among the most challenging of natural hazards due to difficulties in quantifying consequential debris flow runout and adverse consequences. Submarine landslides can be very long (10 ~ 100km), e.g., the Miller Slide along the Atlantic continental margin of the UK, and can occur on rather mild continental slopes (1° ~ 5°). Submarine landslides are even more common in some emerging OSW markets such as the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, SE Asia, and the NW Africa.

Rapid OSW energy development in these landslide prone areas make relevant subsea infrastructure, such as fixed foundations and transmission cables, at risk from potential landslides. Remote renewable energy generation will play an increasing role into the future, which requires subsea infrastructure to be installed or cross continental slopes and hence increases risks from landslide geohazard. As well as threats to offshore energy and communication infrastructure, tsunami generation (see an existing Aura project) extends the risks to coastal communities.

After failure initiation, materials evolve from intact solid soils to fluid-like debris flow and even turbidity currents (see another Aura project). The dynamics of motion become of interest once the sliding mass moves downslope, controlling the run-out distance, and potential impact on offshore wind infrastructure. Attention has previously been paid to predicting run-out features like distance using experimental, numerical and theoretical approaches. However, landslide dynamics with different initial conditions and water entrainment, and the direct impacts to OSW facilities, remain to be understood more clearly.

The specific aims of the project are as follows:

  • Aim 1: study dynamic motions of submarine landslide and quantify likely ranges of runout distances, maximum velocities and maximum volumes for different initial landslide conditions.
  • Aim 2: quantify slide mass impact on OSW infrastructure (mainly fixed OSW foundations and cables) and assess integrity of the infrastructure interacted with different landslide phases.

Free Webinar

The University of Hull is running a webinar at 6pm on Tuesday 29 November to provide more information about the Aura CDT. The webinar will close with a Q&A giving you the opportunity to delve deeper into research opportunities, training provision and potential career paths. Book your place.

Entry requirements

If you have received a First-class Honours degree or a 2:1 Honours degree and a Masters (or the international equivalents) in Engineering, Computer Science, Earth Science, Environmental Sciences, Geography, Physics or Mathematics and Statistics, we would like to hear from you.

If your first language is not English, or you require Tier 4 student visa to study, you will be required to provide evidence of your English language proficiency level that meets the requirements of the Aura CDT’s academic partners. This course requires academic IELTS 7.0 overall, with no less than 6.0 in each skill.

How to apply

Applications are via the University of Hull online portal; you must download a supplementary application from the Aura CDT website, complete and submit.

For more information about the Aura CDT including detailed instructions on how to apply, please visit the website:


Research Council funding for postgraduate research has residence requirements. Our Aura CDT scholarships are available to Home (UK) Students. To be considered a Home student, and therefore eligible for a full award, a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the scholarship (with some further constraint regarding residence for education). For full eligibility information, please refer to the EPSRC website. In addition, a number of Aura CDT Scholarships will be available to International Students across the projects offered by the partner institutions.

Funding Notes

The Aura CDT is funded by the EPSRC and NERC, allowing us to provide scholarships that cover fees plus a stipend set at the UKRI nationally agreed rates, circa £17,668 per annum at 2022/23 rates (subject to progress).


• Power, P.T., Clare, M., Rushton, D., Rattley, M. (2011). Reducing Geo-risks for Offshore Developments. ISGSR 2011 - Geotechnical Safety and Risk.
• Bakhsh, T.T., Simpson, K., Lapierre, T. etal. (2021). Potential geo-hazard to floating offshore wind farms in the US pacific. IOWTC2021.
• Hizzett, J.L., Hughes Clarke, J.E., Sumner, E.J., etal. (2018). Which triggers produce the most erosive, frequent and longest runout turbidity currents on deltas? GRL, 45 (2): 855-863.
• Coombs, W.M., Augarde, C.E. (2020). AMPLE: A Material Point Learning Environment. Adv. Eng. Soft., 139: 102748.
• Zhang, W. and Randolph, M.F. (2020). A smoothed particle hydrodynamics modelling of soil–water mixing and resulting changes in average strength. IJNAG.
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