University of Cambridge Graduate Research Fellowship - Convection and Mixing in Fjords with Melting Glaciers 2018, UK

University of Cambridge


January 04, 2018


Opportunity Cover Image - University of Cambridge Graduate Research Fellowship - Convection and Mixing in Fjords with Melting Glaciers 2018, UK

Convection and mixing in Fjords with melting glaciers (Priority project with CASE partner) (Lead Supervisor: Andy Woods, BP Institute)

Quantification of the melt rate of glaciers is key for climate change modelling. Glaciers in Greenland connected to fjords are melting at considerable rates, driven at the front of the glacier with sea water. Recent field expeditions have measured the salinity and temperature structure of the water in the fjords to try to constrain the melt rate of the glaciers. It is becoming clear that the interaction of shelf water with the fjord water, as well as the mixing of the fjord water produced by the melt-plume on the face of the glacier are key for understanding and constraining the melting rate. This project will develop new laboratory experiments to model the melting and mixing, and exchange with shelf water, to help in the interpretation of the field data.

Project summary:

The PhD project will involve the development of a series of experiments and quantitative models of convective plumes on the face of a melting glacier, combined with models of the mixing in a fjord as driven by the melt water and also by the exchange flows with the adjacent shelf water.  The models and experiments will help inform our understanding of recent field data collected in Greenland, of the temperature and salinity structure of the fjord, and in turn of the melting rate of the glaciers at the head of such fjords. The small-scale processes controlling the melting of the glaciers can then be parameterised for inclusion in larger scale climate models, which operate on a larger spatial scale but rely on the accuracy of such small scale process models.

What the student will do:

The student will run a series of experiments of a turbulent buoyant plume  located at the end of a flume tank, as the model fjord. The other end of the flume tank will include layers of fresh and saline water, to represent the different water masses on the continental shelf beyond the fjord, and the student will then examine the influence of the mixing produced by the plume on the exchange flow between the fjord and the shelf, and also in changing the density structure of the water in the fjord. They will explore the role of fluctuations in the density structure of the shelf water as observed in recent field expeditions, and its impact on the water in the fjord, in terms of the time scale and nature of the change in the stratification of the fjord. The fresh water plume representing melt water run off from the glacier may also include a time dependent intensity to model seasonal changes in melt rate

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.


C Andresen et al., Rapid response of Helheim Glacier in Greenland to climate variability over the past century, Nature Geoscience 5, 37-41 (2012)

Fiametta, et al., Impact of fjord dynamics and glacial runoff on the circulation near Helheim Glacier, Nature Geoscience 4, 322-327 (2011)

F Straneo, and C Cenedese,2015, The dynamics of greenlands glacial fjords and their role in climate, Ann Rev Marine Science, 2015


The Course Description is "PhD in Earth Sciences"; entering the word Earth in the Course Directory Search should bring this up. 

When prompted in the research section of the on-line application, please make sure that you enter the code and title of the project which you are applying for, as well as the name of the proposed supervisor. 

Please remember that, although you may see later dates by which you can apply to enter the course, the deadline for funding by the NERC doctoral training partnership (and for consideration for projects listed by the DTP) is January 4th.

If you wish to devise your own research project you should also submit a short research proposal which you should already have discussed with one of our staff members.

For more information please click "Further Official Information" below.

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Publish Date
November 09, 2017
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