PhD: Southern Ocean uptake of Atmospheric CO2: Where should we measure it?

Project Description

The Southern Ocean plays a critical role in moderating global climate change by absorbing ~40% of anthropogenic (man-made) carbon dioxide (CO2) released to the atmosphere.

An important study (Le Quéré et al., 2007) raised concerns that the Southern Ocean’s ability to absorb CO2 is weakening. This implies that future atmospheric-CO2 could reach higher levels than currently predicted, and that global carbon-reduction strategies may need strengthening.

Such CO2 uptake estimates are made using measurements of atmospheric CO2 together with numerical models. These estimates can be improved by increasing the number of places where atmospheric-CO2 is measured, especially if locations are chosen carefully.

We urgently need to: (i) expand the atmospheric-CO2 measurement network around the Southern Ocean; and (ii) update the findings of Le Quéré et al., [2007] to understand how the behaviour of the Southern Ocean has changed in recent years.


Project Aims/Methods

  1. To produce state-of-art estimates of CO2 uptake by the Southern Ocean using the most recent measurements

  2. To provide a robust basis for deciding where, around the Southern Ocean, the British Antarctic Survey should install new atmospheric-CO2 measurements;

The project involves developing/using numerical modeling tools and inverse analysis methods, to (i) calculate CO2 exchange between the atmosphere/Southern Ocean; (ii) use error reduction methods to identify the most valuable sites for new CO2 measurements.



We are offering this exciting collaboration, between the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), as a CASE studentship. You will work within two active research groups: Dr Parvadha Suntharalingam (primary supervisor) is expert in numerical modeling tools; Dr Anna Jones (second supervisor) has expertise in Southern Ocean CO2 measurement; Prof. Corinne Le Quéré (third supervisor) led the seminal paper on changes in Southern Ocean CO2 uptake. You will: receive extensive on-site training (scientific and transferable skills); attend an Earth System Science summer school; present results at international conferences.


Skills/qualifications required

The ideal candidate will have strong numerical skills. We encourage applications from students with degrees in Mathematics/Applied Mathematics/Computing/Environmental Sciences/Chemistry/Oceanography/Meteorology. For those crossing disciplines, additional training/upskilling will be provided.



Le Quéré, C. et al., Saturation of the Southern Ocean CO2 sink due to recent climate change, Science, 316, 1735, 2007

Nassar, R.,  et al., Inverse modeling of CO2 sources and sinks using satellite observations of CO2 from TES and surface flask measurements, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 6029-6047, 2011.

Suntharalingam, P., et al.,  The Influence of Reduced Carbon Emissions and Oxidation on the Distribution of Atmospheric CO2: Implications for Inversion Analyses, GBC, 2005.


Start date: October 2015

Programme: PhD

Mode of Study: Full Time


Read more and apply online.