Search for a project

Trends in Antarctic sea ice from satellite observations

Prof. Andrew Shepherd (SEE), Dr Ian Brooks (SEE)

Project partner(s): British Antarctic Survey

Contact email:


Sea ice is a key component of the global climate system, because it plays a significant role in Earth’s heat and freshwater balance, and because it is a sensitive indicator of environmental change. Although satellite observations have revolutionised our understanding of Arctic sea ice decline, we know little about Antarctic sea ice because heavy snowfall in the southern hemisphere complicates our ability to measure its thickness from space. The aim of this PhD is to produce the first continental-scale measurements of Antarctic sea ice thickness, and to explore this dataset to provide the first understanding of spatial and temporal trends and their impact on the regions climate, natural habitat, and maritime activity.

Antarctic sea ice thickness will be determined from a combination of CryoSat-2 satellite altimetry, a model of dynamic snow loading, and a physical model of the sea ice buoyancy and radar scattering informed by ship-based measurements collected. Training in all areas will be provided, and there may be opportunities to participate in polar field campaigns.

The PhD is based within the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM), and is a partnership with the British Antarctic Survey and the European Space Agency. CPOM provides the UK with core strategic expertise in the exploitation of satellite measurements to study the Earth’s cryosphere. We use state-of-the-art Earth observation techniques and numerical models to study and predict changes in the polar ice sheets and sea ice cover. CPOM also develops and maintains near real time measurements of Arctic sea ice thickness in partnership with the European Space Agency (

The project will be supervised by Professor Andy Shepherd and Professor Ian Brooks at Leeds, within input from collaborators at BAS and ESA. Andy is the Principal Scientific Advisor for ESA’s CryoSat-2 Mission, and Ian is an expert in polar climate processes.

Click here for a full project description.

Related undergraduate subjects:

  • Applied mathematics
  • Atmospheric science
  • Computer science
  • Computing
  • Earth science
  • Earth system science
  • Environmental science
  • Geography
  • Geophysical science
  • Geophysics
  • Geoscience
  • Mathematics
  • Meteorology
  • Oceanography
  • Physical geography
  • Physical science
  • Physics
  • Remote sensing