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Variability in Antarctic waters: searching for fingerprints of winter-time processes in the Southern Ocean (HEYWOODUENV18EE)

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  • Full or part time
    Prof K Heywood
    Prof D Stevens
    Dr Helene Hewitt
    Dr Patrick Hyder
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Scientific background
Climate models are important to help us plan for future change. These models are still being improved; this applies particularly to ocean processes that are often poorly represented. Here we focus on a little-studied water mass, Winter Water, the remnant of the previous winter’s mixed layer. In the Southern Ocean, Winter Water is easily identifiable as a temperature-minimum layer at a few hundred metres depth, capped in summer by less dense water warmed by solar heating and freshened by sea ice melt. Winter Water is important because it contains a “fingerprint” of previous winters’ interactions between ocean and atmosphere. This joint project with the Met Office will assess Winter Water and its variability in climate models and observations.

Research methodology
You will analyse the Met Office’s family of models (known as NEMO) at different resolutions and with different physics. Winter Water layer depth, thickness, temperature and salinity, as well as mixed layer depth defined by different density thresholds, will be calculated from model output and from newly-available year-round observations of temperature and salinity. You will assess any correlation between summertime and wintertime Winter Water properties, and use the models to explore physical mechanisms behind any links.

The project will test these hypotheses:
H1. Winter Water layer depth is a better metric to assess model skill than mixed layer depth;
H2. Winter Water properties inform about the previous winter’s ocean-atmosphere exchange;
H3. Spatial variations in Winter Water properties inform about regional ocean dynamics and sea ice variability.

You will be trained in physical oceanography, climate modelling, science communication, data analysis and programming in Matlab and/or Python. You will learn oceanographic observational techniques through participation in a research cruise, and joining the UEA glider science group ( using profiling ocean gliders to observe Winter Water close to Antarctica. You will work closely with the Met Office.

Secondary supervisors: Professor David Stevens (UEA), Dr Helene Hewitt (Met Office), Dr Patrick Hyder (Met Office).

Person specification
You will have a physical science degree (e.g. physics, natural sciences, environmental sciences, oceanography, meteorology, geophysics, mathematics). Experience of a programming language such as Matlab or Python is helpful.
EnvEast welcomes applicants from quantitative disciplines who may have limited background in environmental sciences. Excellent candidates will be considered for an award of an additional 3-month stipend to take appropriate advanced-level courses in the subject area.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with over twenty other research partners. Undertaking a PhD with the EnvEast DTP will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 12/13 February 2018.

For further information, please visit

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date of project: October 2018
Mode of study: Full time or part time
Length of studentship: 3.5 years

Acceptable first degree: Physics, natural sciences, environmental sciences, oceanography, meteorology, geophysics, mathematics.

Minimum entry requirements: 2:1 or equivalent.

Funding Notes

Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. For non-UK EU-resident applicants NERC funding can be used to cover fees, RTSG and training costs, but not any part of the stipend. Individual institutes may, however, elect to provide a stipend from their own resources.


(i) Schmidtko, S., K.J. Heywood, A.F. Thompson, and S. Aoki (2014) Multidecadal warming of Antarctic waters, Science, 346 (6214), 1227-1231.

(ii) Heuzé, C., K.J. Heywood, D.P. Stevens and J.K. Ridley (2013): Southern Ocean bottom water characteristics in CMIP5 models, Geophysical Research Letters, 40, 1407-1414, doi:10.1002/grl.50287.

(iii) Heywood, K.J., S. Schmidtko, C. Heuze, J. Kaiser, T.D. Jickells, B.Y. Queste, D.P. Stevens, M. Wadley, A.F. Thompson, S. Fielding, D. Guihen, E. Creed, J.K. Ridley and W. Smith (2014): Ocean processes at the Antarctic continental slope, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 372, 20130047, doi:10.1098/rsta.2013.0047.

(iv) Heuzé, C., K.J. Heywood, D.P. Stevens and J.K. Ridley (2015): Changes in global ocean bottom properties and volume transports in CMIP5 models under climate change scenarios, Journal of Climate, 28, 2917-2944, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00381.1.

(v) Shaffrey, L.C., D. Hodson, J. Robson, D.P. Stevens, E. Hawkins, I. Polo, I. Stevens, R.T. Sutton, G. Lister, A. Iwi, D. Smith and A. Stephens (2017): Decadal Predictions with the HiGEM High Resolution Global Coupled Climate Model: Description and Basic Evaluation, Climate Dynamics, 48, 297-311, doi:10.1007/s00382-016-3075-x.

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