Birkbeck, University of London Featured PhD Programmes
Norwich Research Park Featured PhD Programmes
Norwich Research Park Featured PhD Programmes
The Francis Crick Institute Featured PhD Programmes
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Featured PhD Programmes

Understanding Antarctic Ice Sheet Stability. PhD in Geography (NERC GW4 + DTP)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, January 06, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Lead Supervisor
Dr Anne Le Brocq, Department of Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter,

Additional Supervisors
Dr Andrew Orr, British Antarctic Survey
Prof Simon Vosper, Met Office
Dr Andy Elvidge, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
Prof Tony Payne, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol

Location: University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, Exeter, EX4 4QJ

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP). The GW4+ DTP consists of the GW4 Alliance of research-intensive universities: the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus five unique and prestigious Research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The partnership aims to provide a broad training in the Earth, Environmental and Life sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in scientific research, business, technology and policy-making. For further details about the programme please see

For eligible successful applicants, the studentships comprises:

- A stipend for 3.5 years (currently £15,009 p.a. for 2019/20) in line with UK Research and Innovation rates
- Payment of university tuition fees;
- A research budget of £11,000 for an international conference, lab, field and research expenses;
- A training budget of £3,250 for specialist training courses and expenses.
- Travel and accommodation is covered for all compulsory DTP cohort events
- No course fees for courses run by the DTP

We are currently advertising projects for a total of 10 studentships at the University of Exeter

Project Background

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) contains ice equivalent to up to 5 metres of global sea level rise. An understanding of how the ice sheet responds to a changing climate is critical for robustly predicting future sea level changes. Here, we propose to investigate the past behaviour of the ice sheet, to give us an insight into how it may respond in the future.

The Ellsworth Mountains in West Antarctica protrude through the Ice Sheet, and act like a kind of ‘dipstick’ for recording past changes in the ice sheet. Strong winds blow off the continent over these mountains, causing snow-free (blue) ice areas to form. These areas have the potential to tell us a lot about the history of the ice sheet (e.g. Hein et al., 2016), but to interpret the evidence we need to understand more about the winds that formed them.

Project Aims and Methods

This project aims to investigate the role of the size of the WAIS in controlling the strength of the above mentioned winds in the Ellsworth Mountains. The understanding of the connection between the size of the ice sheet and the wind strength will provide an insight into the past behaviour of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

The student will first use a numerical weather prediction (the Met Office Unified Model) model to investigate the impact of different sizes ice sheets on the generation of the winds (following Orr et al., 2014). Ice sheet configurations would range from moderate retreat, to removal of the marine-based areas, through to the full removal of the WAIS. Further, the localised wind field and the resultant ice flow can also be investigated, for example using the Elmer model (e.g. Zwinger et al., 2015).

Funding Notes

NERC GW4+ funded studentship available for September 2020 entry. For eligible students, the studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £15,009 per annum for 2019-20.


References / Background reading list

Hein, A.S., Woodward, J., Marrero, S.M., Dunning, S.A., Steig, E.J., Freeman, S.P.H.T., Stuart, F.M., Winter, K. Westoby, M.J. & Sugden, D.E. (2016). Evidence for the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet divide for 1.4 million years. Nature Communications 7:10325 doi: 10.1038/ncomms10325

Orr, A., Phillips, T, Webster, S., Elvidge, A., Weeks, M., Hosking, S. and Turner, J. (2014) Met Office Unified Model high-resolution simulations of a strong wind event in Antarctica. Q J.R. Meteorol. Soc. 140, 2287-2297.

Zwinger, T., Malm, T., Schäfer, M., Stenberg, R. and Moore, J.C. (2015) Interaction of katabatic wind and local surface mass balance at Schaffenbergbotnen Blue Ice Area, Antarctica. The Cryosphere 9, 1415–1426.

Email Now

Insert previous message below for editing? 
You haven’t included a message. Providing a specific message means universities will take your enquiry more seriously and helps them provide the information you need.
Why not add a message here
* required field
Send a copy to me for my own records.

Your enquiry has been emailed successfully

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2019
All rights reserved.