PhD Opportunity: permafrost under the Arctic shelves, University of Southampton

PhD on “a hidden carbon source: permafrost under the Arctic shelves” at University of Southampton, UK

Project Overview:

Underneath the shallow Arctic shelves relict subsea permafrost contains a large pool of carbon including methane. The project will investigate future subsea permafrost degradation, the associated methane release and other concurrent changes in the marine environment. 

Project Description:

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and there is evidence that it is being released from areas, e.g. Siberia, where submarine permafrost is melting due to ocean warming. Where and how much will submarine permafrost degrade by 2100? How much methane might be released? What would be the impact of both submarine permafrost degradation and the associated methane release on the marine environment? This project aims at providing answers to these questions. To do this, we will apply a modelling approach that combines the NEMO ocean model and a simplified representation of the dynamic processes governing submarine permafrost melting, associated gas released, and bathymetry changes. The first step would be to review existing data on submarine permafrost occurrence, generating a map that can be added into NEMO. The aim of this project is to have a model configuration with two-way interaction between the ocean and the sediment, to investigate permafrost degradation caused by downward heat or salt fluxes and how these degradation and associated changes affect the ocean. To accommodate the student’s interests, the project will allow flexibility to focus on either physical or biogeochemical impacts. A physical focus might be on the modelling of subsea pingos1 and their impact on bathymetry. A biogeochemical focus would be studying the effect of methane gas released from the degraded permafrost2 into the ocean and assessing spatial and temporal changes in ocean acidification. This application would improve the assessments of carbon budget in the Arctic, with potential for improved climate change predictions. 


The INSPIRE DTP programme provides comprehensive personal and professional development training alongside extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial/policy partners. The student will be registered at the University of Southampton and hosted at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. Specific training will include: using a high-performance computer system; programing using fortran and matlab; running and developing an ocean model and shallow subsea processes model. The student will join one of the UK’s most active group in ocean modelling. 

A suitable first degree would be in Geophysics, Mathematics, Oceanography or Marine Science , Physics.


Deadline: 3 January 2024


  • Paull, C. K. et al. 2022. Rapid Seafloor Changes Associated with the Degradation of Arctic Submarine Permafrost. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(12): e2119105119. doi:10.1073/pnas.2119105119.
  • Shakhova, N. et al. 2015. The East Siberian Arctic Shelf: towards further assessment of permafrost-related methane fluxes and role of sea ice. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 373: 20140451. doi:10.1098/rsta.2014.0451.