Linking the seasonal cycle of ocean water masses to transient climate change

In boreal winter the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans become cold, dense and turbulent. Oxygen, carbon and other substances are drawn out of the atmosphere and ventilated into the deep ocean. In boreal summer, as the surface layers in the north warm, cooling and ventilation begins in the southern hemisphere in earnest.

The process of seasonal ventilation dictates the ocean’s role in climate – both present and future. Only in the last decade has a systematic understanding of seasonal ventilation become possible due to the presence of thousands of autonomous buoys (ARGO) and satellites measuring upper ocean temperature and salinity. Likewise never has the need to quantify it been more pressing.

This project will combine the latest observations to generate a quantitative picture of the formation, ventilation and destruction of cold dense water masses in both hemispheres. A key novelty of this project will be the use the water-mass transformation framework. Using this framework variability in water mass properties is attributed to surface heating and cooling, evaporation and precipitation, mixing and energetic drivers such as wind forcing.

This project is supervised by Dr Jan Zika (UNSW Sydney). Please contact for more information.

Submit your application by Oct 26 2018 for commencement in Term 1, 2019.


Quantifying Global Water Cycle Change using Ocean Observations

Global rates of rainfall and evaporation are amplifying rapidly as a consequence of global warming. Recent studies have suggested that this ‘water cycle’ could be amplifying faster than global climate models had predicted. More accurate quantification of water cycle change and its causes is urgently needed. Changes in the water cycle leave an imprint on the ocean by changing ocean salinity. The candidate will quantify water cycle change based on new observations of ocean salinity and using novel methods developed by the supervisory team. These findings will help improve predictions of water cycle change that are relied upon by society.

This project is supervised by Dr Jan Zika (UNSW Sydney). Please contact for more information.

Submit your application by Oct 26 2018 for commencement in Term 1, 2019.

Summer research opportunities

A number of Mathematics for Planet Earth related projects are available for summer research schemes with UNSW’s School of Maths and Stats and the Climate Extremes ARC Centre of Excellence.

These are great opportunities for domestic and international researchers to get a taste of research. Typically they are ideal for students with strong mathematical backgrounds (maths, physics, engineering majors etc) to get exposed to planet earth related topics.

The following projects are specifically proposed by Mathematics for Planet Earth contributors:

Mathematics and Statistics

Project Title: Distilling the ocean’s role in climate using phase diagrams. Supervisor(s):  Dr Jan Zika

Project Title: Lagrangian pathways and the asymmetry of the ocean’s thermohaline circulation Supervisor(s):  Dr Jan Zika

Project Title: How important are two different options for calculating specific volume in the ocean? Supervisor(s): Prof Trevor McDougall

Climate Extremes

Project Title: Pushing the ocean to extremes. Supervisor(s):  Drs Ryan Holmes and Jan Zika

Project Title: Why does the ocean look like an octopus. Supervisor(s):  Drs Jan Zika and Ryan Holmes

For complete lists of projects and details on how to apply see: