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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities
model of ocean beneath an ice shelf
Brief summary: 
This studentship will use state-of-the-art computer ocean modelling to understand ocean processes and ice melting beneath floating glacial ice shelves.
Importance of the area of research concerned: 
Global sea-level rise is one of the most impactful consequences of climate change, threatening coastal areas that host large cities and diverse ecosystems. Sea level is currently rising at 3.6 millimetres per year, and the best estimates suggest sea level rise of 0.4-0.9 metres by 2100, depending upon human greenhouse-gas emissions. Sea-level rise is caused by several sources, including melting of glaciers and ice sheets. The Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing ice at an accelerating rate, currently equivalent to 15% of global sea-level rise. Most Antarctic ice loss is caused by changes in ocean melting. The ice sheet sits on bedrock that is below sea level. Around its edges there are thinner areas of ice that float on the ocean, called ‘ice shelves’. These ice shelves are melted by the ocean, and this melting has increased in some areas, for reasons that are not fully understood. Scientists are currently implementing active ice sheets and ice shelves into climate models, with the aim of understanding sea-level rise and projecting it into the future.
Project summary : 
Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey have used hot-water drilling and autonomous underwater vehicles to observe ocean conditions beneath ice shelves. Recent advances in theoretical and computer modelling have used these observations to develop our understanding of the ocean processes controlling ice melting. The aim of this studentship is to improve the representation of this melting in climate models, in order to improve projections of sea level rise. Even on the fastest supercomputers, climate models cannot be run at a resolution high enough to resolve all of the ocean processes controlling melting. Melting must instead be included in the models using simplified representations of the underlying physical processes. The student will test and improve these representations in a state-of-the-art ocean model.
What will the student do?: 
The student will join an existing group of BAS and DAMTP researchers that are focussed on understanding ocean processes beneath ice shelves. The student will be based in BAS and supervised by Prof. Holland, but will interact closely with other members of the project team including Dr. Taylor in DAMTP, and Prof. Adrian Jenkins at Northumbria University. The student will model the ice/ocean boundary layer using a state-of-the-art ocean model on the UK’s national high-performance supercomputer. The student will initially model these ocean processes at high resolution, matching these results to observations, theoretical predictions, and the results of other simulations. The student will then coarsen the grid of the ocean model towards a resolution more typical of climate models. This will inevitably result in some change to the results, but it is not known how these changes will affect modelled melting. The overall aim of the studentship is to develop the model so that it can accurately model ice shelf melting even at coarse resolution. The results will be of great interest to scientists worldwide, and could underpin the next generation of ice and ocean climate models.
References - references should provide further reading about the project: 
Holland, D. M., K. W. Nicholls, and A. Basinski (2020), The Southern Ocean and its interaction with the Antarctic Ice Sheet, Science, 367(6484), 1326-1330, doi: 10.1126/science.aaz5491.
Dinniman, M. S., X. S. Asay-Davis, B. K. Galton-Fenzi, P. R. Holland, A. Jenkins, and R. Timmermann (2016), Modeling Ice Shelf/Ocean in Antarctica: A review, Oceanography, 29(4), 144-153, doi: 10.5670/oceanog.2016.106.
Jenkins, A. (2016), A Simple Model of the Ice Shelf-Ocean Boundary Layer and Current, Journal of Physical Oceanography, 46(6), 1785-1803, doi: 10.1175/Jpo-D-15-0194.1.
You can find out about applying for this project on the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) page.
Prof Paul Holland
British Antarctic Survey Graduate Administrator