Variability in circulation and exchange in Cumberland Bay, South Georgia

Funding bodies: NERC, Polar and Seaview Ltd.

Affiliations: British Antarctic Survey (BAS), University of Southampton, National Oceanography Centre (NOC), SAERI

PhD Project Overview

The overall aim of this PhD project is to investigate the drivers of variability in fjord water circulation, and the biological and physical consequences in a changing climate, using Cumberland Bay, South Georgia as a case study. Cumberland Bay is chosen as a study area for two main reasons. Firstly, the glaciers that terminate at the head of each arm have shown markedly different rates of retreat over the past century, aiding a strong comparative study of ocean forcing on glacier dynamics. Secondly, Cumberland Bay is an important spawning area for commercially fished mackerel icefish, which have seen significant reduction in annual catch in recent years. A high-resolution numerical model is developed using the Nucleus for European Modelling of the Ocean (NEMO) framework, and important forcing factors contributing to the circulation regime and the transport of heat to the glacier termini, such as winds and freshwater runoff, are assessed. An Individual Based Model (IBM) will then be used with the modelled flow fields to examine variability in retention of mackerel icefish larvae in the bay.

Project objectives

  • The first objective is to use a combination of observations and numerical modelling to elucidate the ocean circulation in Cumberland Bay and to determine the dominating physical drivers of variability;
  • The second objective is to investigate how the circulation regime couples with associated glacier dynamics, the drivers of variability is glacier behaviour and expected responses in a changing climate;
  • The third objective is to investigate how the circulation regime impacts biological activity in and around Cumberland Bay, specifically the recruitment and retention of fish larvae and krill.

Highlights June 2020 – June 2021

  • Completion of first year progression review (July 2020)
  • Organised, hosted and chaired first virtual BAS student symposium Oct 2020
  • Presented at the Challenger Society Ocean Modelling Conference (Sep 2020)
  • Winner of Best Student Poster Presentation at the Antarctic Science Conference (April 2021)
  • Joined BAS Net-Zero Communications and Awareness group as the student/early career researcher representative (April 2021)
  • Successfully implemented baseline Cumberland Bay model with NEMO4.0.6 on ARCHER2 (super-computer)

Joanna Zanker

Lead supervisor: Dr Emma Young (BAS)
Co Supervisors: Dr Paul Brickle (SAERI); Dr Ivan Haigh (NOC); Dr Paul Holland (BAS)

Dates: Oct 2019 - April 2023
I have a BSc in Mathematics from the University of Surrey and an MSc in Pure Mathematics from the University of Manchester. In 2019 I completed an MSc (by research) in Polar and Alpine Change from the University of Sheffield where I used mathematical techniques to study the shape of tidewater glaciers in Greenland. I am interested in using my strong mathematical background to study ice-ocean interactions and the drivers of glacial retreat, and to further understand potential impacts on local ecosystems in a changing climate.
Example high-resolution NEMO4 model output with simulated flow fields for model domain, South Georgia land in grey.
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