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371 Projects, page 1 of 38

  • UK Research and Innovation
  • UKRI|NERC
  • 2022
  • 2026

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/W002914/1
    Funder Contribution: 14,853 GBP
    Partners: Aberystwyth University

    The UK along with the rest of the world is becoming increasingly dependent on technological systems, including satellite communications, global positioning systems, and power grids, that are at risk from space weather. Many space weather hazards originate in the ionosphere, the ionised upper part of the atmosphere at altitudes of 90 km and above, where solar wind energy channelled by the Earth's magnetic field can cause a variety of unpredictable and deleterious effects. It causes electrical currents to flow, which heat the atmosphere in a process known as Joule heating, which in turn can cause the atmosphere to expand upwards, producing drag on satellites, hence making their orbits harder to predict and reducing their lifetimes. It produces horizontal motions of the ionosphere which modify the neutral winds in the thermosphere through friction. It produces the auroras, associated with particle precipitation from the magnetosphere above, which modify the ionospheric structure. Moreover, it gives rise to plasma instabilities which cause the ionosphere to become corrugated, scattering radio waves from satellites consequently disturbing communications and GPS. Although the large-scale distribution of such space weather hazards is relatively well reproduced in global circulation models, the physics occurring on spatial scales smaller than the model grid is poorly understood, which holds back improvements in forecasting. The FINESSE project will exploit a new and unique NERC-funded incoherent scatter radar system, EISCAT_3D, located in northern Scandinavia, to study these sub-grid space weather scales. EISCAT_3D will be able to determine the ionospheric structure in a box roughly 200 km to a side horizontally and 800 km vertically, at an unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution, to image the processes leading to space weather effects. FINESSE will also exploit a next-generation coherent scatter radar to measure ionospheric motions, three neutral wind imagers to measure the interaction between the thermosphere and the ionosphere, three all-sky auroral cameras to view regions of precipitation from the magnetosphere above, a fine-scale auroral imager to observe auroral structures on spatial and temporal scales even finer than EISCAT_3D can probe, and a radio telescope and network of GPS receivers to look at the scintillation of radio signals from both cosmic sources and satellites. The main aims of FINESSE are as follows. 1) To determine the small-scale sources of Joule heating, to place these within the context of the larger picture of polar auroral disturbances, to determine the link between Joule heating and satellite drag, and to incorporate these results to improve forecast models. 2) To determine the cause of small-scale ionospheric structuring, and to understand how this leads to scintillation of radio signals. 3) To probe auroral dynamics at the very smallest temporal and spatial scales to understand the physics of coupling between the magnetosphere and ionosphere, the role auroral processes play in heating and structuring the ionosphere and atmosphere, and the instability that leads to substorms (explosive releases of energy into the nightside auroral ionosphere). FINESSE will liaise with space weather forecasters and other stakeholders to disseminate this greater understanding of small-scale processes in producing space weather hazards and to translate it into significant economic benefit to the UK.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2743519
    Partners: Northumbria University

    Climate warming is pronounced is many mountainous regions, which is causing degradation of high altitude permafrost. In turn, permafrost degradation reduces slope stability, with implications for the magnitude and frequency of mass movements which can pose a hazard to life and play a key role in landscape evolution, particularly of the mountain cryosphere. Global permafrost zonation models provide a spatially extensive overview of the state of permafrost for a given reference period and can inform more detailed regional- and local-scale analysis, e.g. for providing broad-scale cryospheric context for mass movement inventories. Catchment-scale analysis using satellite- and ground-based observation and analysis can provide additional granularity which is key for developing a detailed understanding of cryospheric state, exploring links to geomorphic processes, and for informing catchment management plans (both from water resources and hazard management perspectives). The objectives of this project are: 1 To update an existing global permafrost zonation model using climate reanalysis data and to simulate future permafrost zonation using Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) trajectories; 2 Use a land surface model to obtain higher spatiotemporal resolution estimates of permafrost degradation in select glacierised catchments (includes fieldwork component). 3 Explore the implications of permafrost degradation and other preparatory and triggering factors for the continuous (e.g. small rockfalls) or episodic (e.g. rock avalanches) delivery of debris to glacierised catchments.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2737544
    Partners: BU

    Greenspaces provide valuable benefits to people; ecosystem services (ES). For example, there are over 62,000 urban greenspaces in GB, estimated to provide ES worth ~£130bn to those living nearby. These benefits can be broken down to different ES: e.g. food production (£114M per year), carbon sequestration (£33M), air filtration (£211M), cooling (£166M), noise mitigation (£14M), improved physical health (£4.4bn) and other cultural services (£2.1bn). While much research is done on ES in general, they are usually treated as static, and the spatial process by which people access ES are poorly understood. For example, to receive these specific ES, people need to be able to access greenspaces within the urban landscape. On average, in GB there are 1.4 access points per hectare of functional greenspace, with the average urban property having 4.6 hectares of green space within a 200-meter radius. One may think that distance to greenspace is the main contributor to its usage. However, how people access nature at a landscape scale is currently not known. This project will address this knowledge gap by combining theories from human mobility and behavioural ecology to understand the "movement ecology of people". Studies using smartphone data show that >50% of human movement is due to routine and that populations show hourly, daily and weekly movement patterns. Combined with behaviour ecology models (particularly foraging models, including: Marginal Value Theorem, Ideal Free Distribution, and Central Place Theory), we will consider how greenspaces are accessed via "human foraging" as people search the landscape for opportunities to benefit from nature. For example, as with other animals, humans may show complex "foraging" behaviour that simple distance metrics cannot capture. This will provide broader insights into how people access a range of ES, and develop a novel use of movement ecology ideas to the critical issue of ES.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2750146
    Partners: University of Leeds

    The majority of the Earth's volcanoes are on the ocean floor, but direct observations of submarine eruptions are very rare. This means that fundamental characteristics of submarine volcanism, including eruption repeat times, remain largely unknown. Although only a small subset of submarine events will result in changes at the ocean surface, many of these are detectable in satellite imagery. Localised ocean colour change occurs both when erupted material is sufficiently shallow, and in the period after an eruption, when volcanic material may stimulate algal blooms (e.g., Urai & Machida, 2005). Eruptions that breach the ocean surface can produce distinctive sub-aerial plumes dominated by steam (e.g., Carey et al., 2014), as well as new, often transient, land. The most distinctive satellite signals are produced by pumice rafts, which can persist for long periods of time, travel great distances and pose a hazard to shipping (Mantas et al., 2011). Past observations of submarine eruptions from satellite imagery have required the manual analysis of satellite images and are limited to individual case studies. This project will develop a systematic approach to detecting submarine volcanic events from global satellite data sets.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2737286
    Partners: BU

    Ecosystem restoration is proposed internationally as a nature-based climate solution. The UK aims to plant 50,000 ha trees per year by 2035. This planting has multiple aims: addressing biodiversity loss, increasing carbon storage and reaching Net Zero, and bolstering associated ecosystem service co-benefits. The direction that restoration trajectories take towards these aims depends upon multiple stressors, including drought and land degradation legacies, for instance dominant vegetation that can arrest woodland succession. However, an important stressor - surface-level ozone - remains overlooked. This is despite evidence of ozone-induced declines in net primary productivity of near 50%. This suggests that the presence of ozone could seriously compromise multiple restoration goals, particularly Net Zero. We know, for individual trees, that ozone can impair stomatal control and reduce root-to-shoot ratios. This makes ozone-affected plants more susceptible to stressors such as drought, and alters water and nutrientuptake relationships. However, we have very limited knowledge of how ozone, when combined with other stressors, influences community assembly restoration trajectories. We hypothesize that initial restoration trajectories in the context of multiple stressors will depend on the functional traits of species involved. This is because environmental filters (i.e. different stressors) can act on the distribution of functional traits. At the same time, stress can alter epigenetics and gene expression with consequences for plant function. This PhD, using experiments and cutting-edge analytical techniques, asks: Does ozone create greater divergence in initial woodland community restoration trajectories in the presence of additional stressors (drought, co-occurring weed species)? Can relationships among functional traits, ecophysiology and epigenetic mechanisms explain divergent restoration trajectories? Ultimately, answering these fundamental science questions will help inform tree-planting interventions and modelling initiatives to ensure resilient restoration trajectories beyond the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2750465
    Partners: University of Liverpool

    Project summary (maximum of 4000 characters including spaces/returns) Deep-sea habitats cover ~60% of the Earth's surface and are the largest and least explored environment on the planet. Deep-sea communities are sustained by primary production from the surface ocean and are sensitive to changes in its supply. Climate change is reducing food supply to the deep seafloor, with a substantial decline in biomass. This PhD will use a 30-year abyssal time series to explore how communities respond to changes in food supply, and combine empirical measurements, theory, and modeling to better understand energy flow and ecosystem function. Objectives This PhD will focus on three main questions: 1) How do deep-sea food webs respond to climate-induced changes in food supply? You will document changes in diet using the stable isotopic composition of fauna collected from the Porcupine Abyssal Plain (PAP); and use those data in numerical/model frameworks to link trophic ecology to ecosystem energy flows. 2) Do changes in food supply affect biological and ecological traits? You will include an examination of how body size, trophic indices, fecundity, species richness, are related to food supply. 3) The data generated will be used to further develop existing biodiversity indicators and targets to assess the impact of changing climate on deep-sea biodiversity and food webs, a key knowledge gap identified in the UK's assessment of progress towards Good Environmental Status (2019). Novelty This PhD is an exciting chance to explore how deep-sea ecosystems respond to climate-induced changes in food supply. You will gain experience in: 1. deep-sea sampling and time series analyses (research cruise to PAP Sustained Observatory); 2. invertebrate identification, stable isotope analysis and modelling; 3. translating research into policy-based tools to assess the impacts of climate change on UK deep-sea environments (JNCC placement). Timeliness The outcomes of the project have important implications for deep-sea benthic ecosystem monitoring and conservation.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2750915
    Partners: University of Liverpool

    Summary: In this project, we will investigate the dynamics of recent genomic parasitism in Lepidoptera. Previous work suggests that Lepidoptera show especially high rates of genomic invasions, but no systematic study of recent horizontal transfer has been attempted. The project will benefit from a unique resource-- a large population genomic data set comparing ~100-year-old and present-day samples from 20 Lepidopteran species. Using these data, we will: -Characterise the transposable element content of these Lepidopteran species -Test whether range shifts trigger transposable element activity, contrasting species with and without range shifts -Examine each species for evidence of invasions of new transposable elements -Collect and analyse new sequence data from a subset of the species, to investigate the impact of past encounters with transposable elements

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2744048
    Partners: Imperial College London

    Sea-level rise is one of the most critical issues the world faces under global warming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 10% of the world's population live in low-lying coastal regions that are susceptible to flooding. While twentieth-century sea-level rise was dominated by thermal expansion of ocean water, mass loss from glaciers and ice sheets is now the largest contributor. As a consequence, there is a need for updating IPCC sea-level rise projections, which are now thought to be on the low end of possible outcomes. However, delivering quantitative predictions of ice mass loss is not an easy task. Iceberg fracture and detachment (calving) is a complex phenomenon that occurs over long time scales and is governed by mechanical, thermal and hydraulic fracture processes. The objective of this PhD project is to develop a new generation of models for predicting iceberg calving and the associated sea-level rise. This will be achieved by including - for the first time - the physics of meltwater-driven fracture; a scientific milestone that will be made possible by bringing a new mathematical phase field paradigm to the discipline. Current empirical estimates cannot capture key physical features, such as the viscous behaviour of ice, thermal effects or the role of meltwater in driving hydraulic fractures. This PhD project will incorporate the physics of meltwater-driven fracture by developing a multi-physics finite element framework. Key elements of the work involve the combination of phase field fracture modelling, thermo-viscoelasticity and poroelasticity. Model predictions will be benchmarked against satellite and radar data. This PhD project will deliver a new generation of ice-sheet fracture models that can simulate the underlying physical mechanisms. This will bring, for the first time, quantitative insight into iceberg calving; a phenomenon referred to as the "holy grail" problem in glaciology, due to the challenges and rewards that it presents. Computer codes will be made freely available, providing the scientific community with tools to reduce uncertainty in the prediction of climate change effects. The connection with the Grantham Institute will be exploited to translate scientific findings into policy, maximising the societal impact of this PhD thesis.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2739508
    Partners: University of Southampton

    Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2744008
    Partners: Cardiff University

    Floating ice shelves modulate the flow of ice towards the ocean, and are vulnerable to changes in both the atmosphere and ocean. The formation of surface meltwater has been linked with the disintegration of many ice shelves in the Antarctic Peninsula over the last several decades. The most notable ice shelf collapse occurred in 2002, when significant meltwater lake coverage was observed on the surface of the Larsen B Ice Shelf before its collapse, resulting in the loss of an area of ice over twenty times the size of Cardiff over a period of just a few weeks. Such collapse can affect ocean circulation and temperature, and cause a loss of habitat. The loss of ice shelves removes their buttressing effect on the grounded ice sheet, which has in the past led to an observed acceleration of glaciers that previously fed into the ice shelves, and a corresponding rise in sea level. Understanding the surface hydrology of ice shelves is thus an essential first step to reliably project future sea level rise from ice sheet melt. Surface hydrology processes are poorly represented in ice sheet and climate models, despite the importance of surface meltwater production and transport to ice shelf stability. As a result of this, projections of future sea level rise under a changing climate still vary over an order of magnitude.

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371 Projects, page 1 of 38
  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/W002914/1
    Funder Contribution: 14,853 GBP
    Partners: Aberystwyth University

    The UK along with the rest of the world is becoming increasingly dependent on technological systems, including satellite communications, global positioning systems, and power grids, that are at risk from space weather. Many space weather hazards originate in the ionosphere, the ionised upper part of the atmosphere at altitudes of 90 km and above, where solar wind energy channelled by the Earth's magnetic field can cause a variety of unpredictable and deleterious effects. It causes electrical currents to flow, which heat the atmosphere in a process known as Joule heating, which in turn can cause the atmosphere to expand upwards, producing drag on satellites, hence making their orbits harder to predict and reducing their lifetimes. It produces horizontal motions of the ionosphere which modify the neutral winds in the thermosphere through friction. It produces the auroras, associated with particle precipitation from the magnetosphere above, which modify the ionospheric structure. Moreover, it gives rise to plasma instabilities which cause the ionosphere to become corrugated, scattering radio waves from satellites consequently disturbing communications and GPS. Although the large-scale distribution of such space weather hazards is relatively well reproduced in global circulation models, the physics occurring on spatial scales smaller than the model grid is poorly understood, which holds back improvements in forecasting. The FINESSE project will exploit a new and unique NERC-funded incoherent scatter radar system, EISCAT_3D, located in northern Scandinavia, to study these sub-grid space weather scales. EISCAT_3D will be able to determine the ionospheric structure in a box roughly 200 km to a side horizontally and 800 km vertically, at an unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution, to image the processes leading to space weather effects. FINESSE will also exploit a next-generation coherent scatter radar to measure ionospheric motions, three neutral wind imagers to measure the interaction between the thermosphere and the ionosphere, three all-sky auroral cameras to view regions of precipitation from the magnetosphere above, a fine-scale auroral imager to observe auroral structures on spatial and temporal scales even finer than EISCAT_3D can probe, and a radio telescope and network of GPS receivers to look at the scintillation of radio signals from both cosmic sources and satellites. The main aims of FINESSE are as follows. 1) To determine the small-scale sources of Joule heating, to place these within the context of the larger picture of polar auroral disturbances, to determine the link between Joule heating and satellite drag, and to incorporate these results to improve forecast models. 2) To determine the cause of small-scale ionospheric structuring, and to understand how this leads to scintillation of radio signals. 3) To probe auroral dynamics at the very smallest temporal and spatial scales to understand the physics of coupling between the magnetosphere and ionosphere, the role auroral processes play in heating and structuring the ionosphere and atmosphere, and the instability that leads to substorms (explosive releases of energy into the nightside auroral ionosphere). FINESSE will liaise with space weather forecasters and other stakeholders to disseminate this greater understanding of small-scale processes in producing space weather hazards and to translate it into significant economic benefit to the UK.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2743519
    Partners: Northumbria University

    Climate warming is pronounced is many mountainous regions, which is causing degradation of high altitude permafrost. In turn, permafrost degradation reduces slope stability, with implications for the magnitude and frequency of mass movements which can pose a hazard to life and play a key role in landscape evolution, particularly of the mountain cryosphere. Global permafrost zonation models provide a spatially extensive overview of the state of permafrost for a given reference period and can inform more detailed regional- and local-scale analysis, e.g. for providing broad-scale cryospheric context for mass movement inventories. Catchment-scale analysis using satellite- and ground-based observation and analysis can provide additional granularity which is key for developing a detailed understanding of cryospheric state, exploring links to geomorphic processes, and for informing catchment management plans (both from water resources and hazard management perspectives). The objectives of this project are: 1 To update an existing global permafrost zonation model using climate reanalysis data and to simulate future permafrost zonation using Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) trajectories; 2 Use a land surface model to obtain higher spatiotemporal resolution estimates of permafrost degradation in select glacierised catchments (includes fieldwork component). 3 Explore the implications of permafrost degradation and other preparatory and triggering factors for the continuous (e.g. small rockfalls) or episodic (e.g. rock avalanches) delivery of debris to glacierised catchments.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2737544
    Partners: BU

    Greenspaces provide valuable benefits to people; ecosystem services (ES). For example, there are over 62,000 urban greenspaces in GB, estimated to provide ES worth ~£130bn to those living nearby. These benefits can be broken down to different ES: e.g. food production (£114M per year), carbon sequestration (£33M), air filtration (£211M), cooling (£166M), noise mitigation (£14M), improved physical health (£4.4bn) and other cultural services (£2.1bn). While much research is done on ES in general, they are usually treated as static, and the spatial process by which people access ES are poorly understood. For example, to receive these specific ES, people need to be able to access greenspaces within the urban landscape. On average, in GB there are 1.4 access points per hectare of functional greenspace, with the average urban property having 4.6 hectares of green space within a 200-meter radius. One may think that distance to greenspace is the main contributor to its usage. However, how people access nature at a landscape scale is currently not known. This project will address this knowledge gap by combining theories from human mobility and behavioural ecology to understand the "movement ecology of people". Studies using smartphone data show that >50% of human movement is due to routine and that populations show hourly, daily and weekly movement patterns. Combined with behaviour ecology models (particularly foraging models, including: Marginal Value Theorem, Ideal Free Distribution, and Central Place Theory), we will consider how greenspaces are accessed via "human foraging" as people search the landscape for opportunities to benefit from nature. For example, as with other animals, humans may show complex "foraging" behaviour that simple distance metrics cannot capture. This will provide broader insights into how people access a range of ES, and develop a novel use of movement ecology ideas to the critical issue of ES.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2750146
    Partners: University of Leeds

    The majority of the Earth's volcanoes are on the ocean floor, but direct observations of submarine eruptions are very rare. This means that fundamental characteristics of submarine volcanism, including eruption repeat times, remain largely unknown. Although only a small subset of submarine events will result in changes at the ocean surface, many of these are detectable in satellite imagery. Localised ocean colour change occurs both when erupted material is sufficiently shallow, and in the period after an eruption, when volcanic material may stimulate algal blooms (e.g., Urai & Machida, 2005). Eruptions that breach the ocean surface can produce distinctive sub-aerial plumes dominated by steam (e.g., Carey et al., 2014), as well as new, often transient, land. The most distinctive satellite signals are produced by pumice rafts, which can persist for long periods of time, travel great distances and pose a hazard to shipping (Mantas et al., 2011). Past observations of submarine eruptions from satellite imagery have required the manual analysis of satellite images and are limited to individual case studies. This project will develop a systematic approach to detecting submarine volcanic events from global satellite data sets.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2737286
    Partners: BU

    Ecosystem restoration is proposed internationally as a nature-based climate solution. The UK aims to plant 50,000 ha trees per year by 2035. This planting has multiple aims: addressing biodiversity loss, increasing carbon storage and reaching Net Zero, and bolstering associated ecosystem service co-benefits. The direction that restoration trajectories take towards these aims depends upon multiple stressors, including drought and land degradation legacies, for instance dominant vegetation that can arrest woodland succession. However, an important stressor - surface-level ozone - remains overlooked. This is despite evidence of ozone-induced declines in net primary productivity of near 50%. This suggests that the presence of ozone could seriously compromise multiple restoration goals, particularly Net Zero. We know, for individual trees, that ozone can impair stomatal control and reduce root-to-shoot ratios. This makes ozone-affected plants more susceptible to stressors such as drought, and alters water and nutrientuptake relationships. However, we have very limited knowledge of how ozone, when combined with other stressors, influences community assembly restoration trajectories. We hypothesize that initial restoration trajectories in the context of multiple stressors will depend on the functional traits of species involved. This is because environmental filters (i.e. different stressors) can act on the distribution of functional traits. At the same time, stress can alter epigenetics and gene expression with consequences for plant function. This PhD, using experiments and cutting-edge analytical techniques, asks: Does ozone create greater divergence in initial woodland community restoration trajectories in the presence of additional stressors (drought, co-occurring weed species)? Can relationships among functional traits, ecophysiology and epigenetic mechanisms explain divergent restoration trajectories? Ultimately, answering these fundamental science questions will help inform tree-planting interventions and modelling initiatives to ensure resilient restoration trajectories beyond the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2750465
    Partners: University of Liverpool

    Project summary (maximum of 4000 characters including spaces/returns) Deep-sea habitats cover ~60% of the Earth's surface and are the largest and least explored environment on the planet. Deep-sea communities are sustained by primary production from the surface ocean and are sensitive to changes in its supply. Climate change is reducing food supply to the deep seafloor, with a substantial decline in biomass. This PhD will use a 30-year abyssal time series to explore how communities respond to changes in food supply, and combine empirical measurements, theory, and modeling to better understand energy flow and ecosystem function. Objectives This PhD will focus on three main questions: 1) How do deep-sea food webs respond to climate-induced changes in food supply? You will document changes in diet using the stable isotopic composition of fauna collected from the Porcupine Abyssal Plain (PAP); and use those data in numerical/model frameworks to link trophic ecology to ecosystem energy flows. 2) Do changes in food supply affect biological and ecological traits? You will include an examination of how body size, trophic indices, fecundity, species richness, are related to food supply. 3) The data generated will be used to further develop existing biodiversity indicators and targets to assess the impact of changing climate on deep-sea biodiversity and food webs, a key knowledge gap identified in the UK's assessment of progress towards Good Environmental Status (2019). Novelty This PhD is an exciting chance to explore how deep-sea ecosystems respond to climate-induced changes in food supply. You will gain experience in: 1. deep-sea sampling and time series analyses (research cruise to PAP Sustained Observatory); 2. invertebrate identification, stable isotope analysis and modelling; 3. translating research into policy-based tools to assess the impacts of climate change on UK deep-sea environments (JNCC placement). Timeliness The outcomes of the project have important implications for deep-sea benthic ecosystem monitoring and conservation.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2750915
    Partners: University of Liverpool

    Summary: In this project, we will investigate the dynamics of recent genomic parasitism in Lepidoptera. Previous work suggests that Lepidoptera show especially high rates of genomic invasions, but no systematic study of recent horizontal transfer has been attempted. The project will benefit from a unique resource-- a large population genomic data set comparing ~100-year-old and present-day samples from 20 Lepidopteran species. Using these data, we will: -Characterise the transposable element content of these Lepidopteran species -Test whether range shifts trigger transposable element activity, contrasting species with and without range shifts -Examine each species for evidence of invasions of new transposable elements -Collect and analyse new sequence data from a subset of the species, to investigate the impact of past encounters with transposable elements

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2744048
    Partners: Imperial College London

    Sea-level rise is one of the most critical issues the world faces under global warming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 10% of the world's population live in low-lying coastal regions that are susceptible to flooding. While twentieth-century sea-level rise was dominated by thermal expansion of ocean water, mass loss from glaciers and ice sheets is now the largest contributor. As a consequence, there is a need for updating IPCC sea-level rise projections, which are now thought to be on the low end of possible outcomes. However, delivering quantitative predictions of ice mass loss is not an easy task. Iceberg fracture and detachment (calving) is a complex phenomenon that occurs over long time scales and is governed by mechanical, thermal and hydraulic fracture processes. The objective of this PhD project is to develop a new generation of models for predicting iceberg calving and the associated sea-level rise. This will be achieved by including - for the first time - the physics of meltwater-driven fracture; a scientific milestone that will be made possible by bringing a new mathematical phase field paradigm to the discipline. Current empirical estimates cannot capture key physical features, such as the viscous behaviour of ice, thermal effects or the role of meltwater in driving hydraulic fractures. This PhD project will incorporate the physics of meltwater-driven fracture by developing a multi-physics finite element framework. Key elements of the work involve the combination of phase field fracture modelling, thermo-viscoelasticity and poroelasticity. Model predictions will be benchmarked against satellite and radar data. This PhD project will deliver a new generation of ice-sheet fracture models that can simulate the underlying physical mechanisms. This will bring, for the first time, quantitative insight into iceberg calving; a phenomenon referred to as the "holy grail" problem in glaciology, due to the challenges and rewards that it presents. Computer codes will be made freely available, providing the scientific community with tools to reduce uncertainty in the prediction of climate change effects. The connection with the Grantham Institute will be exploited to translate scientific findings into policy, maximising the societal impact of this PhD thesis.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2739508
    Partners: University of Southampton

    Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: 2744008
    Partners: Cardiff University

    Floating ice shelves modulate the flow of ice towards the ocean, and are vulnerable to changes in both the atmosphere and ocean. The formation of surface meltwater has been linked with the disintegration of many ice shelves in the Antarctic Peninsula over the last several decades. The most notable ice shelf collapse occurred in 2002, when significant meltwater lake coverage was observed on the surface of the Larsen B Ice Shelf before its collapse, resulting in the loss of an area of ice over twenty times the size of Cardiff over a period of just a few weeks. Such collapse can affect ocean circulation and temperature, and cause a loss of habitat. The loss of ice shelves removes their buttressing effect on the grounded ice sheet, which has in the past led to an observed acceleration of glaciers that previously fed into the ice shelves, and a corresponding rise in sea level. Understanding the surface hydrology of ice shelves is thus an essential first step to reliably project future sea level rise from ice sheet melt. Surface hydrology processes are poorly represented in ice sheet and climate models, despite the importance of surface meltwater production and transport to ice shelf stability. As a result of this, projections of future sea level rise under a changing climate still vary over an order of magnitude.

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