The fluid mechanics of glacial ice sheets (mathematical modelling, theory, and computation)

   College of Science and Engineering

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  Dr Katarzyna Kowal, Dr Peter Stewart  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project involves the mathematical modelling and analysis of the dynamics of ice sheets, such as those of Greenland and Antarctica. Relevant processes will be modelled mathematically using the principles of viscous fluid mechanics, with solutions to be found numerically. As fluid mechanical and geophysical background will be attained during this project, it is not a requirement for admission. However, prior familiarity with numerical computation would be an advantage for the successful completion of this project.

To understand why ice sheets can be modelled mathematically as a viscous fluid, it is helpful to appreciate that ice sheets are large bodies of ice that slowly deform, or spread, under their own weight. Although ice appears to behave as a solid on small length and time scales, such as ice cubes in our freezer, the story is different on much larger scales. Over large length and time scales, such as those of all of Antarctica, the substantial pressures within several-kilometre-thick ice cause ice sheets to slowly deform, or flow, like a viscous fluid, much like the viscous fluids we regularly see and eat, like honey and syrup. As such, understanding the flow of thin films of viscous fluids can help us in understanding large-scale ice-sheet dynamics. These dynamics are also strongly affected by what is going on beneath ice sheets. The presence of meltwater and glacial till greatly accelerates the flow and results in rapid ice discharge towards the oceans. The project seeks to explore the dependence of the flow of viscous fluids, such as glacial ice sheets on the large scale, on what lubricates it from below and on the accumulation of the underlying material.

The project involves mathematical modelling and numerical computation, but depending on the candidate’s interests, there is also the possibility for designing and conducting small-scale fluid-dynamical laboratory experiments involving viscous fluids, such as syrup.  

Informal enquiries: [Email Address Removed] / [Email Address Removed]

How to Apply: Please refer to the following website for details on how to apply:

and select “Mathematics”

Engineering (12) Mathematics (25) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

Funding is available to cover tuition fees for UK/INTL applicants for 3.5 years, as well as paying a stipend at the Research Council rate (estimated £18,022 for Session 2023/24).
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