PhD position on remote sensing of ice shelf thinning (1.0 FTE)
Universiteit Utrecht
Utrecht, NL
6 dagen geleden


Antarctic mass loss is the largest source of uncertainty in current sea level rise projections. Ice shelf instability plays a key role in this uncertainty as ice shelves are the floating gatekeepers that surround 75% of Antarctica's coastline and that buttress the contribution of grounded ice to sea level rise.

Although basal melting is known to be one of the key processes for ice shelf instability, the quantitative understanding of this process and how much, how fast it weakens ice shelves is limited as it is determined by fine scale processes.

Until recently, these were difficult to observe, but the recent availability of high-resolution satellite measurements now offers the opportunity to quantify the role of channelized melting on ice shelf instability across Antarctica.

In this project, you will combine various remote sensing data sets, such as altimetry measurements (CryoSat-2, Sentinel-3 and ICESat-2) and stereoscopic digital elevation models (e.

g. Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica) to obtain time series of ice shelf thinning at high temporal and spatial resolution.

These estimates will be combined with output from a regional climate model to account for changes in snowpack thickness, to isolate basal melt features, melt channel geometry and growth, grounding line migration and frontal iceberg.

Furthermore, land-ice elevation changes will also be produced near the grounding zone to monitor the dynamic response of the ice sheet to changes in the ice shelf thickness.

During your project, you will work in close collaboration with remote sensing experts at Delft University of Technology.

Your results will be used to validate and calibrate models of basal melt and ice sheet dynamics developed by your colleagues at the Netherlands Royal Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and Université Libre de Bruxelles.

This position is part of the HiRISE project, a collaboration between Researchers at Utrecht University, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands Royal Meteorological Institute (KNMI), Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and Université Libre de Bruxelles, and funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

The project combines field measurements, satellite data and climate models to chart the current state of Antarctica’s ice shelves with high resolution and accuracy and reduce the uncertainty in projections of sea level rise.

The HiRISE team will eventually consist of four PhD candidates, four Postdocs and one Technician. During the project, you will spend part of your time at one of the collaborating institutes and actively exchange your results, ideas and plans during regular meetings with the other team members.

We aim to start the project on December 1, 2020, or earlier.


Our ideal candidate is driven, positive and collaborative and has :

  • a MSc in Remote Sensing, Geodesy, Aerospace Engineering, Geophysics, Glaciology or a related discipline;
  • strong programming skills (Fortran, Python or similar);
  • experience with statistical / mathematical software environments such as R or Matlab;
  • experience in development of data processing algorithms;
  • good reporting and presentation skills;
  • an excellent level of written and spoken English;
  • the ability to work independently, to critically assess own results and to cooperate within a wider research team.
  • To excel in this role, you have :

  • affinity with remote sensing of ice sheet and ice shelf processes, in particular altimetry or DEM differencing;
  • experience in handling large data sets and parallel computing, high performance computing or cloud computing.
  • Aanbod

  • an inspiring, open minded and open research group;
  • a job with national and international collaboration;
  • research on a challenging topic with great societal relevance;
  • a position for 4 years;
  • a full-time gross salary starting for PhD students at €2,395 and increasing to €3,061 per month during the appointment (scale P);
  • benefits including 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao).
  • In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the cao for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements.

    For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment yourself via the Employment Conditions Selection Model.

    This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

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