PhD Studentship in Atmosphere, Oceans, and Climate - Arctic Sea-ice Reduction: Gaining New Knowledge from Data Assimilation

University of Reading - Meteorology

Supervisors: Prof. Danny Feltham, Prof. Peter Jan Van Leeuwen, Prof Andy Shepherd (Leeds, School of Earth and Environment)

Project Overview:   

The strong decline of Arctic sea ice is a conspicuous indicator of climate change: the last 13 years (2005-2017) have seen the 13 lowest September Arctic ice extents in the satellite record. The dramatic reduction in extent has been accompanied by an even stronger decrease in volume, as measured by satellite altimetry and field observations.

Arctic sea ice is an important component of the global climate system: its high albedo (reflectivity) relative to ocean water significantly affects the surface radiative budget; it forms a mechanical barrier to transports of heat, moisture and momentum between the atmosphere and ocean; and the formation and melt of sea ice acts as a buoyancy forcing to the ocean, affecting deep-water formation and the thermohaline circulation. 

The mechanisms responsible for changes in Arctic sea-ice volume and its distribution are complex, involving both thermodynamic changes and dynamics of motion and deformation. Understanding the local causes of past sea-ice loss is crucial to developing the ability to predict the future of Arctic sea ice, and its impacts on the broader climate system.

This project will combine new and emerging satellite estimates of sea ice thickness with a state-of-the-art sea ice model using data assimilation. Using these tools, we will develop a sea ice reanalysis (spatio-temporal description of the sea-ice state) that will be analysed to identify the proximate causes of sea-ice change over the satellite era, giving us new physical insight. If time permits, the student will examine the potential to use the sea-ice data-assimilation system to produce a sub-seasonal sea-ice prediction capability.


  • Degree (2(i) minimum) or equivalent in applied mathematics, physics, engineering, or a similar numerate subject. Specialist sea-ice knowledge is not expected.
  • Due to restrictions on the funding this studentship is open to UK/EU students.

Funding Details:   

  • Starts 1st October 2018
  • 3.5 year award
  • Tuition fees plus RCUK stipend

How to apply:   

To apply please submit an application for a PhD in Atmosphere, Oceans and Climate at

*Important notes*

Please quote the reference ‘GS18-108’ in the ‘Scholarships applied for’ box which appears within the Funding Section of your on-line application.

  • When you are prompted to upload a research proposal, please omit this step.

Application Deadline: Applications will be considered on a first-come first-served basis

Further Enquiries:

For further details please contact Prof. Danny Feltham,, or email

Please note that, where a candidate is successful in being awarded funding, this will be confirmed via a formal studentship award letter; this will be provided separately from any Offer of Admission and will be subject to standard checks for eligibility and other criteria.

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