NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship: Causes and Effects of Antarctic Sea Ice Trends

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Science

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP).

At least 4 fully-funded studentships that encompass the breadth of earth and environmental sciences are being offered to start in September 2017 at Exeter. 

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,296 per annum for 2016-2017, research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.’’

Sea ice covers about 12% of the Earth’s ocean and plays a critical role in the climate system.

Whilst the globe has warmed and Arctic sea ice cover has dramatically declined over past decades, paradoxically, Antarctic sea ice cover has increased. Whilst many possible causes have been proposed for this increase - including the Antarctic ozone hole, increased glacial melt leading to fresher (easier to freeze) surface waters, changing wind patterns, and multi-decadal natural oceanic variability - their relative roles remain poorly understood. Furthermore, climate models do not reproduce this increase. When run with observed changes in radiative forcing (due to e.g. greenhouse gases), state-of-the-art models suggest that Antarctic sea ice cover should have declined.

This begs the question: why are the models apparently wrong?

The same models robustly predict large losses of Antarctic sea ice in the future. But should we believe these models if they cannot reproduce past trends?

Will the next generation of models - becoming available during this lifetime of this project - do a better job?

If Antarctic sea ice continues to increase in the future, how might this effect the wider Southern Hemisphere climate?

This fully funded 3.5-year project will address these and related questions using a combination of observational analysis and climate modelling. The successful candidate will work under the primary supervision of Dr James Screen, a leading international expert in polar climate variability and change, within the Exeter Climate Systems group of the Department of Mathematics.

The project is in collaboration with Professor Ian Simmonds at the University of Melbourne and Dr Tom Bracegirdle at the British Antarctic Survey. There will be opportunities for the candidate to spend time in Melbourne, Australia, and to collaborate with scientists working on the Australian Research Council funded project ‘Trends in polar sea ice and associated atmospheric circulations’ (lead by Simmonds and Screen). The successful candidate will gain skills in statistical tools for climate science, running climate models, the analysis of large data sets and preparation of scientific journal papers.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 6 January 2017.  

Please see for full details on how to apply.

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