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Postgraduate research project

Detecting rapid changes and tipping points in the abyssal ocean circulation

Fully funded (UK and international)
Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours degree View full entry requirements
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
Closing date

About the project

The abyssal ocean circulation is key to Earth’s climate. Numerical models suggest that the circulation is slowing down dramatically. However, no approach exists to observe the circulation’s variability. This project will develop and apply the first approach to detect changes in the abyssal circulation from oceanic variables measurable from satellites.

The abyssal ocean circulation plays a fundamental role in Earth’s climate, as it cycles and se-questers vast quantities of carbon, heat, oxygen and nutrients throughout the global ocean for as long as millennia. A numerical simulation of the ocean consistent with sparse observations, suggests that the accelerated melting of Antarctica associated with anthropogenic climate change may be disrupting the abyssal ocean circulation.

As the pace of Antarctic melting grows, the additional freshwater deposited on the Antarctic margins may be driving a decrease in the salinity and density of the local ocean waters, making them lighter and less prone to sink to the abyss. The ensuing slowdown of the abyssal ocean circulation would be expected to have a very substantial impact on the functioning of the climate system. However, such a slowdown is very challenging to detect from observations, for no direct measurements exist of the abyssal circulation’s rate.

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