Reconstructing the past and predicting the future: what can ice-cores tell us about climate?

We have funding for a PhD project on palaeo climate reconstruction. The studentship offers four years of funding, and is available to both UK/EU and international students. Students will receive an annual stipend of £17,335, which is above the usual UK stipend of £14,296. The student will be based in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sheffield, but will spend time in Geography and at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge.

Reconstructing the past and predicting the future: what can ice-cores tell us about climate?

Statistical expertise can contribute greatly to climate science, particularly in palaeoclimate research, where the quality of the data means that careful treatment of uncertainty is important. Without this, scientific errors can occur, potentially leading to a public loss of confidence (the ‘hockey stick’ and the ‘climategate’ controversies were both due to arguments over the statistical treatment of palaeo data). This project offers the opportunity to work on statistical methodology while also contributing to an important scientific problem.

To understand how the Earth’s climate has evolved over long time-scales we use palaeo-data, such as measurements from ice-cores extracted from glaciers. The information they contain is a combination of global and local temperatures, sea-ice extent, and polar ice sheet changes. Our physical understanding of glaciers is encoded in complex computer models which model the ice composition by taking into account the numerous different processes involved.

The key question for this project is: what combination of temperature, ice-sheet, and sea ice configuration most likely led to the observed time-series data? The complexity of the simulators means that we are limited to a small ensemble of simulator runs, comparing a few different scenarios. The first task of the Grantham scholar will be to build a fast statistical surrogate of the UK isotope enabled climate model, known as an emulator. Once we have an emulator, the next task will be to develop Bayesian methodology to solve the inverse problem. This will involve the use of complex Monte Carlo methods, and will require careful quantification of the uncertainties in the model and data. Once this methodology is in place, we can then explore various scientific hypotheses and produce climate reconstructions.

The project will be based in the School of Mathematics and Statistics, supervised by Dr Richard Wilkinson, Professor Caitlin Buck, and Dr Julie Jones (Geography). The student will be expected to spend time visiting project partner Dr Louise Sime at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. For more information, please email||nosnikliw.d.r

Grantham Centre

The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures focuses on advancing the science of sustainability and connecting it with the policy debate around how humans can live in a more sustainable way.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License