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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities
Pic du Midi seen from Taconnaz Glacier near Mt Blanc

Lead Supervisor: Poul Christoffersen, Scott Polar Research Institute

Co-Supervisors: Bryn Hubbard, Centre for Glaciology, Aberystwyth University; Adam Booth, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds and Ian Willis, Scott Polar Research Institute

Brief summary: 
This project will resolve climate-sensitivity of glaciers using fibre-optic sensing technology
Importance of the area of research concerned: 
Glaciers in mountain ranges across the world are retreating due to climate change, causing a quarter of the observed rise in mean global sea level. Given the current rate of retreat, there may be an almost complete demise of glaciers in many alpine regions, including the European Alps, by the end of this century (Zemp et al., 2019). As we lose glaciers, there will be significant impact on local communities, national energy provision and globally in terms of sea level rise.
Project summary : 
This project will use distributed fibre-optic sensing to monitor temperature of ice and other properties in boreholes drilled on a glacier in the European Alps. The research will incorporate fibre-optic technology, used previously in the Christoffersen research group to identify properties of ice of different type and age (Law et al. 2021). Fibre-optics will be used for distributed temperature sensing, with continuous measurements over multiple seasons. The aim of the research is to identify cold as well as temperate ice, and to quantify the rate of which ice is warming due to climate change. The research will examine the role of water in generating warm temperate ice, which deforms much faster than cold ice, while also allowing faster sliding at the bed. With data collected in unsurpassed resolution, the research will lead to a better understanding of the world’s most sensitive glaciers
What will the student do?: 
The successful candidate will participate in glaciological fieldwork and be responsible for setting up and running autonomous recording stations, including distributed temperature sensing with a Silixa XT DTS system. The candidate will collect hers or his own data, which will be calibrated through measurements with other borehole sensors (Law et al. 2021). The student will be provided with boreholes drilled in collaboration with the co-supervisor (Prof Bryn Hubbard) in Aberystwyth University. The project may integrate seismic measurements (Booth et al. 2020), and there will be support for incorporating data in an ice flow model created with the Elmer/Ice finite-element package.
References - references should provide further reading about the project: 
Law, R., P. Christoffersen, P., B. Hubbard, et al. 2021. Thermodynamics of a fast-moving Greenlandic outlet glacier revealed by fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing. Science Advances, v. 7, eabe7136. doi:10.1126/sciadv.abe7136.
Booth, A.D., P. Christoffersen, P., C. Schoonman, et al. 2020. Distributed Acoustic Sensing of Seismic Properties in a Borehole Drilled on a Fast-Flowing Greenlandic Outlet Glacier. Geophysical Research Letters, v. 47, doi:10.1029/2020GL088148.
Zemp, M., M. Huss, E. Thibert, et al. 2019, Global glacier mass changes and their contributions to sea-level rise from 1961 to 2016, Nature, v. 568, 382-386. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1071-0.
You can find out about applying for this project on the Scott Polar Research Institute page.
Dr Poul Christoffersen
Department of Geography Graduate Administrator
Dr Ian Willis