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C314: Modelling the ice-shelf ocean boundary layer (Lead Supervisor: John Taylor, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics)

Supervisors: John Taylor (DAMTP), Paul Holland (BAS) and Keith Nicholls (BAS)

Importance of the area of research:

Sea level rise has the potential to be one of the most damaging aspects of climate change. Ocean-driven melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is an important contributor to sea level rise. Our ability to predict future sea level is limited by incomplete knowledge of the dynamics in the ocean beneath ice shelves, the floating extensions of ice sheets. The ice-ocean interface forms a unique fluid dynamical setting. Cold, fresh melt water flows up along the underside of melting ice shelves. When the bottom of the ice is nearly flat, the melt water partially insulates the ice from further melting. However, when the underside of an ice shelf slopes upwards a feedback mechanism is possible. Turbulence, generated by the upslope flow mixes warm ocean waters towards the ice, thereby enhancing the melt rate. The additional melt water drives stronger upslope flows and more turbulence and mixing.

Project summary:

This project aims to discover the fundamental fluid dynamics of the ocean boundary layer beneath ice shelves, and to develop new mathematical models for the flow beneath ice shelves and its impact on the melt rate. Recently, a team of scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) led by Dr. Nicholls made the first measurements of turbulence in the boundary layer beneath ice shelves. This, combined with the availability of high-resolution numerical simulations, presents a valuable opportunity to develop new insights into this elusive environment.

What the student will do:

The project student will be based in DAMTP and supervised by Dr. Taylor, but will have the opportunity to interact closely with other members of the project team, including the co-supervisors, Drs. Holland and Nicholls, and postdoctoral researchers at DAMTP and BAS. The student will first help design a suite of numerical experiments using a state-of-the-art direct numerical simulation package developed by Dr. Taylor to study the response of the ocean in contact with a melting ice shelf. The student will have the opportunity to work closely with colleagues at BAS to analyse newly available field measurements. The student will then develop new mathematical models for the ocean boundary layer beneath melting ice shelves.

Please contact the lead supervisor directly for further information relating to what the successful applicant will be expected to do, training to be provided, and any specific educational background requirements.

Follow this link to find out about applying for this project.

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