Posted on: 21 December, 2018
Application deadline: January 31, 2019

PhD project – Ice and fire: exploring relationships between glaciers, volcanoes and climate – QUADRAT, Aberdeen University, Scotland

Project Description

Mountain glacier surface mass balance responds to changes in climate. The glacier equilibrium line altitude (ELA), the elevation at which net accumulation equals net ablation, has been empirically linked to both precipitation and temperature. However, this relationship is often offset when glaciers occupy volcanoes. The magnitude of this offset is likely to be a function of time since last eruption, the nature of this eruption, and recent geothermal heat flux. This project will quantify the offset at a global scale, in order to understand relationships between volcanoes and glaciers. In so doing, the project will also identify glaciers that should not be included in the global databases frequently used to analyse regional climate. An improved understanding of glacier-volcano interactions has implications for understanding and mitigation of related hazard (e.g. lahars). It will also explore the possibility of using the offset to quantify regional geothermal heat flux. In this exciting, interdisciplinary project, we will study climate in different glacio-volcanic areas worldwide, and analyse nearby, non-volcanic glacier ELA to establish the relationship between glaciers and climate in those regions. We will then look at volcanic glaciers, quantify their ELA and analyse the offset to the climatically-controlled ELA of non-volcanic glaciers. Finally, we will analyse the recent history of volcanic activity in these areas: if and when an eruption occurred, the nature of the eruption, known sudden changes to the glaciers that might have affected their mass balance (e.g. beheading), and the geothermal history of the volcanoes in question. These tasks will be performed using GIS and remote sensing techniques applied to a time series of satellite images and digital terrain models, and integrated with direct observations, where available (e.g., from glacier monitoring schemes, meteorological stations, observations of volcanic activities, media reports, geothermal heat measurements, etc.). Finally, we will downscale climate model output to project future ELA changes for these regions.The project seeks a highly motivated, curious and passionate student interested in doing a truly interdisciplinary project. The student will be supervised by a team of glaciologists, climatologists and volcanologists, led by Matteo Spagnolo (University of Aberdeen) and Donal Mullan (Queen’s University Belfast). Ideal candidates should have a strong background in one of the three disciplines involved. Prior knowledge of remote sensing and GIS is not essential but welcome.

The PhD studentship is part of the NERC doctoral training centre “QUADRAT” (universities of Aberdeen and Queen’s Belfast). QUADRAT provides high quality training in many aspects essential to future employment, including field-based experience, science communication skills and a Certificate in Strategic Management and Leadership. The PhD student will be based in Aberdeen but will travel regularly to Belfast to meet with the co-supervisor. Aberdeen offers a unique location within the UK to enjoy outdoor activities, while also maintaining the cultural attraction of a large city. It is the ideal gateway to some of the most beautiful scenery in Northern Europe, and is served by an international airport.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject.


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geography • State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor • State ‘QUADRAT DTP’ as Intended Source of Funding • State the exact project title on the application form

Application closing date is 12:00pm (GMT) on 31 January 2019. Applications received after this time will NOT be considered. Additionally, incomplete applications will NOT be considered. When applying please ensure all required documents are attached: • All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc-officially translated into English where necessary) • CV • 2 References (Academic, where possible)

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr M Spagnolo () with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ()

The start date of the project is 1 October 2019

Funding Notes

To be eligible to apply for a fully-funded DTP studentship, you must:

1. be a UK or EU citizen or a non-EU citizen with permanent settled status in the UK (known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’)


2. have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship (this applies to all citizen categories)

Original listing