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Liquid water and Antarctic ice sheet stability

Our current best estimates suggest that enough ice could be lost from Antarctica by the end of this century to contribute over a metre to global sea level if current rates of climate change are not curbed (de Conto and Pollard, 2016). This estimate however, omits the potential contribution of instabilities introduced by the interaction of liquid water with the frozen ice, for example floating ice collapse due to the formation and drainage of surface melt ponds (Scambos et al., 2003) and grounded ice acceleration associated with water stored sub-glacially (Bell et al., 2008). This omission is largely due to an imperfect understanding of these processes and their potential impacts, but given the leverage that Antarctica possesses to affect coastlines worldwide (storing enough ice to raise global sea level by 70 m) it is important that this knowledge gap is addressed. Here we propose to develop new insight into the role of liquid water on ice shelf stability by performing the a holistic assessment of surface and sub-glacial water storage and its evolution through time using remote sensing and modelling. To do this the student will create an inventory of surface and sub-surface liquid water and apply advanced data analysis and modelling techniques to these data to assess the potential contribution of liquid water to historical ice sheet instability. This project offers the potential to develop skills and acquire experience in glaciology, remote sensing, geophysical modelling and environmental data science for which full training will be given. In addition to the Lancaster based team (Amber Leeson and Pete Atkinson), the successful student will also benefit from collaboration with colleagues at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (Anna Hogg and Andy Shepherd).

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in physical science subjects including Environmental Science, Geophysics or Natural Sciences. Programming experience would be an advantage. An interest in glaciology is essential!

For further details please contact Dr Amber Leeson