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A New Framework for Measuring Uncertainty in Satellite Observations of Climate Change.

This project offers the exciting opportunity to develop fundamental new insight into the certainty of satellite estimates of climate change, with a focus on Earth’s polar ice sheets.

The melting of ice from Greenland and Antarctica contributes more than one third of global sea level rise. Satellites provide a unique tool for systematically monitoring the response of these vast ice sheets to climate change, yet comprehensive estimates of the uncertainty associated with these measurements is challenging. This complicates their interpretation by end-users such as climate modellers and policy makers.

The project aims to address this challenge, by developing a fundamental new approach to estimating the uncertainty of satellite altimetry measurements of ice sheet change. This will be achieved by bringing together the disciplines of Earth Observation and metrology (the science of measurement). Specifically, you will (1) work to develop a framework to characterise end-to-end uncertainty in satellite altimetry estimates of ice sheet change, (2) use this new framework to estimate the certainty with which we can derive long-term trends in the contribution of ice sheets to sea level, and (3) explore how this approach can be applied to other sources of satellite data, such as optical and radar imagery.

This PhD project benefits from being a CASE studentship, meaning that the successful student will have the opportunity to work with experts in both metrology and satellite Earth Observation, and to undertake a secondment at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory. You will also become a member of the UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (a national Centre of expertise in polar remote sensing) and the new Lancaster University-CEH Centre of Excellence in Environmental Data Science. There will be extensive opportunities to collaborate with glaciologists, climate scientists, data scientists and statisticians, and to work closely with the European Space Agency.


This project is particularly well-suited to applicants with a background in physics, mathematics, computer science, data science, or engineering, who would like to use numeric techniques to study environmental science and climate change. Applications should hold the minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent.


Informal enquiries are welcome, please contact Mal McMillan,