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Postgraduate research project

Interconnections of past greenhouse climates: lessons for the future

Competition funded View fees and funding
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

Shifting rainfall patterns and seasons represent an alarming consequence of human-driven global climate change. Yet even the sign (wetter/drier) of future change is uncertain in some regions. This project examines the response of continental climates to global warmth in the past to study natural forcing and evaluate uncertain future predictions. 

Global warming has already reached 1°C above pre-industrial levels because of greenhouse gas emissions. The polar regions are losing ice mass, the ocean is heating up and rainfall patterns are shifting.  

To help test divergent climate predictions for the future and to understand natural climate change in the past we need datasets much longer than those possible by direct observation. You will study past intervals of CO2-induced global warmth from the geological past.  

We will develop palaeoclimate records from deep sea drill cores that contain both marine and terrigenous sediments (riverine material and wind-blown dust). These will be used to study interactions between tectonics, insolation, ice-sheets and ocean circulation that control regional response to global change.  

There is flexibility to focus the project to match your interests. Potential foci include: regions where climate model reconstructions of the past are poor (e.g. North Africa, see references); regions where predictions of the future are most alarming (e.g. the Mediterranean, California, Southern Africa) and past intervals where global climate changed radically but the response of these hotspots is unknown (e.g. the warm Pliocene, the warm Miocene and the Eocene-Oligocene transition) (references available on request).


The INSPIRE DTP programme provides comprehensive personal and professional development training alongside extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial/policy partners. The student will be registered at the University of Southampton and hosted in the School of Ocean and Earth Science.

Specific training will include:

  • Travel: There are opportunities to participate in a scientific cruise and work in mainland Europe, the US and Japan
  • Travel to international scientific meetings to present project results is encouraged and supported

Project-specific training will include:

  • Stratigraphy and chronology of deep-sea drillcores
  • Stable oxygen, carbon and nitrogen isotope and radiogenic (Sr, Nd) isotope analysis of terrestrial and marine samples
  • X-ray Fluorescence core scanning and elemental composition of microfossils
  • Earth system modelling (e.g., cGENIE) – dynamic responses of marine oxygen and seawater temperature to climate; geochemical data assimilation
  • Correlation, integration, and interpretation of multi-proxy datasets from deep-sea cores for palaeoclimatic and palaeoceanographic reconstructions
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