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Tidewater glacier dynamics: modelling the recent past to better predict the future

   Department of Geography and Planning

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  Dr Isabel Nias, Dr James Lea  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Satellite observations show the Greenland Ice Sheet has been losing mass and thus contributing to sea level rise since the 1980s. One important pathway for mass loss is through tidewater glaciers around the margin of the ice sheet, which lose ice through melt and calving directly into the ocean. Many of these glaciers have undergone rapid retreat, although not uniformly – indicating some complex dynamics are at play. While numerical ice flow models can be used to project how these glaciers will respond to future climate change, in order to be confident in these projections we need to show that they can accurately model past change. In this project the student will use the Ice-sheet and Sea-level System Model (ISSM) to run simulations starting in the 1970s, focusing on a number of tidewater glaciers in West Greenland. They will make use of the vast number of satellite datasets now available that document the ice sheet change over the last few decades to run the model and to calibrate the simulations. The simulations that most successfully reproduce the observed trends up to present day will be extended into the future under different climate scenarios. Furthermore, using the historical experiments and observations, the student will investigate the impact of various model inputs and parameters on the dynamics of the tidewater glaciers and the timescales they operate on, which will go on to help assess uncertainty in future projections.

Candidates should be able to demonstrate a knowledge of glacier systems, with a good appreciation of the application of numerical modelling and/or remote sensing to environmental problems. Some experience of computer programming is desirable. Candidates should hold or expect to gain a minimum of a 2:1 Bachelor Degree, and Masters Degree with Merit/Distinction, or equivalent in a numerate science discipline such as Environmental Science, Physical Geography, Earth Science, Physics or a related field.

If you have any questions about the project, please contact Isabel Nias ([Email Address Removed] ).

To apply for this opportunity, please visit: and click the 'Ready to apply? Apply online.'

Funding Notes

This competitive funded studentship supports 3.5 years of full-time studies, covering UK fees (, annual stipend of £15,843 and a research training support grant of £5000 for the duration of the studies. If you are an international student, you will need to cover the differences in fees.
Shortlisted candidates will have an interview on the 9th of March 2022 (date tbc).
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