Antarctic Ice Sheet response to climate forcing

Dr Alessandro Silvano, Prof Alberto Naveira-Garabato, Anna Hogg, Leeds University,; Pierre Dutrieux, British Antarctic Survey,; Laura Herraiz-Borreguero, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO),

PLEASE NOTE:  Application deadline date 08 Jan 2024.  Applications are no longer being accepted for this project


Project Overview 

The aim of this project is to assess the role of climate variability in driving Antarctic Ice Sheet changes and its contribution to sea level rise by combing new observations of ice, ocean and atmosphere. 

Project Description 

The Antarctic Ice Sheet has been losing mass at an accelerating rate since at least the 1970s [1], contributing to global sea-level rise. This mass loss is associated with rapid basal melting at their floating terminus (ice shelves) by warm ocean waters.

Superimposed on this multidecadal trend are interannual fluctuations in melting across Antarctic ice shelves [1,2]. Such fluctuations can result in periods of enhanced glacial loss alternated with periods of stability. However, at continental scale, it remains uncertain how climate variability influences the behavior of Antarctic ice shelves. This project will fill this important knowledge gap.

The candidate will combine pan-Antarctic estimates of ice sheet, ocean and atmospheric changes since the 1990s based on in situ and satellite products. The project will combine these different datasets using a statistical approach (e.g. coherence, Maximum Covariance and Principal Component Analysis as well as machine learning) to detect coherent changes in the atmospheric-ocean-ice system. Physical interpretation will be essential to extract the mechanisms responsible for causing temporal changes in the ice shelves and outlet glaciers. Moreover, the candidate may use available circumpolar Southern Ocean models to gain further insight into the physical processes causing ocean variability near Antarctic glaciers.

The outcome of this project will provide new evidence of the role of climate variability in driving Antarctica’s contribution to sea-level rise. This project will be relevant to international research programmes such as SCAR’s (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) INSTANT (

University of Southampton/National Oceanography Centre

The INSPIRE DTP programme provides comprehensive personal and professional development training alongside extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial/policy partners. The student will be registered at the University of Southampton and based at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton. Specific training will include:

  • Processing and analysis of multi-disciplinary observational datasets.
  • Understanding of a range of ice, ocean and atmospheric processes.
  • Learn machine learning approaches
  • Opportunities to attend national/international conferences to disseminate the candidate’s results and to broaden their scientific network.
  • Opportunities to take part in fieldwork, including a cruise in the Southern Ocean.

Opportunities to visit co-supervisors at the University of Leeds (UK), BAS (UK) and CSIRO (Australia).

Eligibility & Funding Details: 
Background Reading: 

[1] Rignot, E., Mouginot, J., Scheuchl, B., Van Den Broeke, M., Van Wessem, M. J., & Morlighem, M. (2019). Four decades of Antarctic Ice Sheet mass balance from 1979–2017. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(4), 1095–1103. pnas.1812883116

[2] Adusumilli, S., Fricker, H. A., Medley, B., Padman, L., & Siegfried, M. R. (2020). Interannual variations in meltwater input to the Southern Ocean from Antarctic ice shelves. Nature Geoscience, 13, 616–620. doi: 10.1038/s41561-020-0616-z