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Improving understanding of ice-ocean interactions in Greenland and Antarctica through remote sensing of ocean temperature

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  • Full or part time
    Dr D Goldberg
    Dr Tom Cowton
    Dr Noel Gourmelen
  • 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

The importance of ice-ocean interactions in controlling future ice sheet loss is becoming increasingly clear, for both the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. In Antarctica, large-scale climate variability drives relatively warm currents under large floating ice shelves, leading in some cases to buoyant melt-laden plumes exiting the ice shelves close to the surface. This is nowhere more prevalent than in the Amundsen Sea embayment of West Antarctica, where ice shelves such as Pine Island and Dotson melt at higher rates than elsewhere on the continent. In Greenland, subglacial runoff into fjords mixes with warm waters at depth to drive buoyant plumes which melt tidewater glaciers at rates far greater than seen in Antarctica, and spread throughout the fjord, melting away the sea ice and icebergs which curb the glaciers’ flow, potentially leading to more rapid decay of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

In order to assess the implications of future climate warming scenarios on the Greenland and West, it is critical that we are able to understand ice-ocean interactions and represent them correctly in climate models. A host of observations are typically used to analyse ice-ocean interactions, including ocean moorings and shipboard surveys as well as remotely sensed glaciological observations. A vastly underutilized data source in polar regions is satellite sea surface temperature (SSST). Inferred from satellite thermal band sensors, SSST has potential for orders of magnitude greater spatiotemporal coverage than shipboard investigation. Moreover current products exist at sufficient resolution to identify patterns of circulation [Bindschadler, 2011; Mankoff et al, 2012]. Still, to date no comprehensive record of SSST has been compiled.

The aim of this project is to generate a detailed longitudinal record of surface temperatures for the Amundsen Sea and Greenland Fjords at high spatial resolution, to analyse this record for seasonal and interannual variability, and to evaluate and potentially improve the ability of ocean models to reproduce patterns observed. The project will consist of a remote-sensing component and a modelling component. For the remote sensing component the student will generate maps of SSST using Landsat-7 EMT+ and Landsat-8 OLI/TIR thermal band data, with the assistance of Ken Mankoff (GEUS, Denmark). This record will be analysed and compared against existing shipboard data, in order to determine the sea surface temperature “fingerprint” of ice-ocean interactions, and to explore climatological influence on ice-ocean interactions. In the modelling component, the student will compare their observations against existing models of the Amundsen Sea and Kangerdlussuaq Fjord, East Greeland [Nakayama et al, 2017; Cowton et al, 2016]. The models will then be calibrated using a similar procedure to that of Nakayama et al [2017] in order to improve representation of Antarctic shelf seas and Greenlandic fjords, better enabling the scientific community to assess the effects of future climate warming on the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets.

See also:


Click on the "apply online" link below, which will take you to the Atmospheric & Environmental Sciences PhD application page. In the right‐hand column, “Applying”, in the dropdown box for “PhD Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences  ‐ 3 Years (Full‐time)”, select a start date of “10 September 2018” and click Apply.


-For Section 7 (Finance), simply state that you are applying for a SAGES Studentship
-For Section 8 (Referees), use the option of supplying the email addresses of TWO referees – but please do also make a
personal appeal to your referees to supply us with references by the application deadline of 26 January 2018.
-For Section 9 (Upload Documents), where you are asked to upload a Research Proposal, simply submit a short document
that states that you are applying for the SAGES project with Dan Goldberg, "Improving understanding of ice-ocean interactions in Greenland and Antarctica through remote sensing of ocean temperature".
-If you encounter any difficulties, please contact [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This studentship is jointly funded by the University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences and by the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES) under the Atmosphere, Oceans and Climate theme and the Forum for Ice-Ocean Research Development (FIORD). SAGES welcomes all applications. We are committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. EU applicants are encouraged to apply. Funding is available for candidate travel to the interviews.


Bindschadler and Vornberger, 2011. Journal of Glaciology, 57 (204).
Cowton et al, 2016. Journal of Glaciology, 62(236).
Mankoff et al, 2012. Annals of Glaciology, 53 (60).
Nakayama et al, 2017. J of Geophys Res-Oceans, 122 (8).

How good is research at University of Edinburgh in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 104.98

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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