PhD position available @ Utrecht University, IMAU on ocean / ice shelf interaction

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PhD position available @ Utrecht University, IMAU on ocean / ice shelf interaction

Berg, W.J. van de (Willem Jan)
Dear all,

We would like to draw your attention to an fully paid PhD position at IMAU, Utrecht University, The Netherlands, on modelling ocean-ice shelf interaction (1.0 FTE). For the full description and application form, see: 

The briefest possible description of the project is: 

Model the interaction between Antarctic ice shelves and the ocean by explicitly resolving the circulation below ice shelves.

This project will be carried out in close collaboration with NCAR, CO, USA, and will contribute to the development of CESM3, an Earth System Model of the upcoming CMIP7 generation.

The deadline for applications is 5 January 2021, and applications should be done online - link is given above. 

Best regards,

Willem Jan van de Berg

Utrecht University
Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (IMAU)

More information
Job description

Scientists once thought that the Antarctic Ice Sheet is stable on century time scales. However, after three decades of satellite observations, we know that mass loss in West Antarctica is accelerating, and parts of this ice sheet are possibly close to a tipping point of rapid mass loss. The primary driver of the current mass loss is a warming ocean, melting the ice shelves from below. In recent years, the scientific community has developed improved ice sheet models that can represent the relevant physical processes of ice flow in sufficient detail. Furthermore, ocean models are starting to represent the ocean flow below ice shelves. The next challenge is interactively coupling these improved models in, eventually, Earth System models so that the dynamic response of the Antarctic Ice Sheet in a warming world can be projected, including ice-ocean-atmosphere feedbacks.

In this project, you will investigate the ice-shelf–ocean interaction using the Community Earth System Model (CESM). The current model version, CESM2, supports interactive ice sheets, and the next-generation version, CESM3, will include (unlike most state-of-the-art models) a dynamic Antarctic Ice Sheet and explicitly resolved ocean circulation below ice shelves. CESM3 is still being developed and is not yet tuned to represent optimally the Earth’s climate. This project will start with running and analysing idealized regional cases using interactively the ice-sheet, ice-shelf, ocean, and sea ice components of CESM3. Next, a similar regional setup will be applied to part of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, e.g. the Weddell Sea sector including the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf. The focus of the last years of the project will be decided later, but could be, for example, running CESM3 as a regional model resolving the whole of Antarctica and the surrounding ocean. During the whole project, you will collaborate extensively with researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder, CO, USA, who are leading the development and implementation of the ice sheet and ocean model into CESM3. It is also foreseen that you will do a research traineeship at NCAR during the project.

This position is part of the DP4C project, a collaboration between researchers at Utrecht University, Technical University Delft, Deltares, KNMI and  University of Groningen. The project addresses the importance of climate change in polar areas for the Netherlands, in particular changes in the ice sheets and sea ice, ultimately focussing on the trend in sea level change and the chances for extreme sea level events.

15% of your time will be spend to assisting in courses for undergraduate and master students in (climate) physics.

We aim to start the project on the first of April 2021.


Our ideal candidate is driven, positive and collaborative and has

• a MSc in Physics, Geophysics, Oceanography, Meteorology or a related discipline;
• strong programming skills (Fortran, Python or similar);
affinity with numerical model development;
• good reporting and presentation skills;
• 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 including collaborators from NCAR, USA.

Ideally, you also haveaffinity with modelling of oceanographic or glaciological processes.


a position for 4 years;

an inspiring, open minded and open research group;

a position with national and international collaboration;

research on a challenging topic with great societal relevance;

a full-time gross salary that starts at €2,395 and increases to €3,061 per month in the fourth year (scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao));

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.

- 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.


More information about working at the Faculty of Science can be found here.

About the organization

The Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht (IMAU) offers a unique research and teaching environment, in which the fundamentals of the climate system are studied. Research is organized in five themes: Atmospheric Dynamics, Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry, Coastal and Shelf Sea Dynamics, Ice and Climate, and Oceans and Climate. In 2017, IMAU research quality and impact were qualified as 'world leading' by an international visitation committee. Currently, IMAU employs 15 faculty members and 10 support staff and some 20 Postdocs and 20 PhD candidates.

The Ice and Climate group at IMAU is an inspiring, high-quality and versatile research group focusing on ice sheets, sea level, and climate. The group is world-leading in modelling of the ice sheet surface including firn, and maintains a dedicated network of automatic weather stations. Currently, our research group has 5 staff members, 10 Postdocs and 8 PhD candidates. For this project, we encourage and provide financial support for visits to conferences, workshops and summer schools, and we promote national and international exchange visits.

At the Faculty of Science there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes which work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.

Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our familiar atmosphere and the can-do attitude of our people. This fundamental connection attracts Researchers, Professors and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the university and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.

Additional information

If you have any questions that you’d like us to answer, please contact Willem Jan van de Berg ([hidden email]).

Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to [hidden email].

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