Cardiff University President's Research Scholarship: Quantifying the dynamic response of permafrost and slope stability to a changing climate (Climate Change: confronting the four 'grand challenges') (PhD Studentship)
Reference Number: R932
Key Studentship Information
Project title: Quantifying the dynamic response of permafrost and slope stability to a changing climate
Modelling of regional slope stability in cold region conditions is challenging because of the complex interactions between temperature conditions, which are controlled by insolation, snow cover, and soil material properties, and hydrology, which depends on local thermal conditions and subsurface moisture transport. Arctic slope stability modelling at a regional scale has never been attempted, because the primary driver of instability, pore pressure, is dependent on these complex, local conditions. The proposed project will combine models of different scales in an attempt to create the first regional slope stability model. This project will investigate changes in permafrost distribution and pore pressure generation at a local level using detailed process models and use the pore pressure output to estimate the distribution of ALD. The project will provide a framework for predicting potential changes to permafrost and slope stability in a changing climate.
The primary aims of this project are to:
- Improve understanding of impacts of a changing climate on slope stability in cold regions,
- Provide a framework for predicting permafrost and slope stability responses to climate change and quantifying uncertainty.
Existing modelling approaches will be used to develop a local scale process model to consider surface conditions, subsurface thermal regimes, and variations in vegetation. Simulations considering historical climate and potential impacts of climate change will be made. Local-scale modelling will calculate pore pressures and soil depths for a given set of thermal conditions. These parameters will serve as an input for a GIS based regional landslide model based on the limit equilibrium approach.
Hales and Constantine will provide support and training on geomorphic and GIS aspects of the project. Cleall will support the development of the local scale numerical model. The student will also be encouraged to utilise the Research Students’ Skills Development Programme.
The proposed research seeks to investigate the coupled impacts of a changing climate on ground temperature regimes, erosion, and vegetation in cold regions. Permafrost is sensitive to small changes in temperature, making a process-based understanding of this dynamic system extremely important for predicting Earth system response. In cold regions rapid erosion is caused by melting ice lenses, which elevate pore pressures, initiating sliding of the active layer (termed active layer detachment, ALD), such erosion can have a significant impact on infrastructure. Also these surface mass movements can result in significant methane release, for example, methane release has been found to be controlled by the rate of permafrost ice lens degradation in Arctic environments. The Arctic is particularly sensitive to increases in global temperatures, and predicted increases in temperature will result in increased ALD frequency. However there have been no attempts to date to model the likely distribution of ALD’s for different scenarios and to quantify uncertainty of predictions, in part due to the computation requirements of such a study.
Start date: October 2013
This is a Cardiff University President's Research Scholarship. The award includes full UK/EU tuition fees plus a doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£13,590 p.a. for 2012/13, updated each year).
Academic Criteria: Applicants must have a First Class Honours degree or a 2.1 plus a postgraduate Masters degree (or their equivalents).
Residency: The award is open to all UK/EU students without further restriction.
How to Apply
Prospective students should submit an application via the University's online application service for the programme in Earth Surface Processes, October 2013 start.
A CV and Covering Letter should be submitted to Christine Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org
Application Deadline: 1 February 2013
For further information please contact Christine Williams:
Telephone no: +44 (0)29 208 75772