Melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets contributes approximately one-third of global sea level rise. Whilst surface melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet is well documented, less is known about the past and present surface melting of Antarctica, and specifically, the transient network of lakes and rivers that form on the surface of the ice each year. These elusive features are important for understanding the evolution of the ice sheet, and have been implicated in the recent disintegration of several peripheral ice shelves.
This PhD will develop new understanding of the spatial and temporal evolution of Antarctic melting, and the resulting surface hydrological network. Using both traditional methods and novel data science techniques, several key questions will be explored, (1) What happens to Antarctica’s surface meltwater – where does it refreeze, does it drain into the ice sheet, or does it run off directly into the ocean, (2) How much water is stored in surface lakes, and for how long, and (3) How will the hydrological system evolve under future climate scenarios? To answer these questions, you will exploit the rapid, recent expansion in satellite data, to systematically map the distribution of melt features across Antarctica using both optical and Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite imagery. In addition to traditional methods, there will be opportunities to explore state-of-the-art Machine Learning, Bayesian optimisation and signal processing techniques to deliver new insight into the surface hydrological system. You will then use advanced time series analysis techniques, such as extreme value theory and changepoint detection, to explore trends and variability in melt across space and time. Finally, you will utilise regional climate model estimates of future melting, together with high resolution satellite topography data, to predict the future evolution of the Antarctic ice sheet hydrological network.
Fully funded UK/EU PhD studentship
Supervisors: Dr Amber Leeson, Dr Mal McMillan and Dr Chris Nemeth
Start date: October 2019
Application deadline: 12 July 2019
Click here to apply