Skip to content

Constraining palaeoceanographic changes in Pacific meridional overturning circulation (PMOC)

Palaeoceanographic studies have often focused on understanding how the North Atlantic Ocean responds to and has driven past changes in the global climate-oceanographic system. In recent years, it has become apparent that the North Pacific Ocean may play an equally important role, with evidence of deep-water formation when global climatic conditions were similar or warmer than modern. If confirmed, this process called Pacific meridional overturning circulation (PMOC) would have drastically altered marine carbon storage and ocean-atmospheric teleconnections, changing our understanding of the ocean system and current concepts of future climatic variability under a warmer climate state.

The PhD student will investigate palaeoceanographic and biogeochemical changes in the subarctic North Pacific Ocean in the late Pliocene (2.7-3.5 Ma), with a focus on an interval between Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) M2-KM3 (3.3-3.1 Ma) which represents an analogue of a “warmer” climate system. Using sediment cores from ODP Site 882 (subarctic north-west Pacific Ocean), the student will generate multi-proxy isotope and geochemical records to:

  • constrain late Pliocene PMOC variability in the North Pacific Ocean from 3.5-3.0 Ma, including across the key time interval of MIS M2-KM3;
  • assess oceanographic and biogeochemical interactions arising from PMOC, including changes in ocean-atmospheric exchanges in CO2 and their impact on the global climate system.

All work will be primarily carried out either at the University of Nottingham or at the NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory at the British Geological Survey (BGS) – institutes that are aligned through the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry ( – with additional visits to the University of Exeter. Throughout the PhD you will gain strong experience in both isotope geochemistry and palaeoceanographic research. In addition to complementary training from the University of Nottingham/Envision DTP, on completion of the PhD you will be fully equipped to follow an academic pathway onto a post-doctoral position.


Applicants must have a BSc (first or upper second class) or Masters level degree in Geoscience, Geography/Geology, Environmental Science or related subject.


Please contact George Swann (