Investigating Southern Ocean meridional fluxes from ARGO within the framework of a time-varying Gravest Empirical Mode climatology of watermass properties

Degree type


Closing date

24 September 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

Changes in the Southern are substantial and widespread (Bindoff et al. 2019) and different to other regions (Meredith et al 2019). In order to quantify change, we generally calculate deviations of property values from a long-term average constructed on a latitude-longitude grid (e.g. World Ocean Atlas). In the Southern Ocean, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current fronts are constantly moving in response to instabilities that generate eddies along their path, and meanders due to interaction of the currents with the rough sea floor. Thus, any given location in the path of the ACC, could at one time be found north of a front, south of a front, or directly in its path. Constructing an average that combines all of these occurrences results in a climatology that does not resolve the rich frontal structure and instead smears the properties and adds noise to any analysis of variability.

An elegant solution to this problem is the Gravest Empirical Mode (GEM) climatology (Sun and Watts 2001, Watts et al. 2001, Meijers et al. 2011). As well as long-term time-evolving trends, the GEM can be combined with satellite sea surface height measurements (1992-present) to construct daily-varying maps of the Southern Ocean’s 3-D watermass property structure, known as SatGEM. The existing SatGEM of temperature and salinity (Meijers et al. 2011) has been used to trace transports, meridional heat fluxes, eddy mixing and stirring, eddy tracking and finally to document the changing state of the Southern Ocean (Meijers et al, 2012).  We now have vastly more data in the Southern Ocean thanks to the Argo profiling float array (Wijffels et al. 2016), the SOCCOM biogeochemical float array (SOCCOM) and instrumented seals  (Seal Data) in addition to recent field programs providing high-resolution observations at locations where current-topography interactions are strong (Kerguelen Plateau, Macquarie Ridge, Drake Passage). Interpreting these new data requires a new SatGEM that is updated and refined for new applications including biogeochemical cycling and circulation change.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Prof Nathan Bindoff


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years;
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000; and
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.  Applicants will be assessed and ranked according to the quality of their basis for entry research degree and institution, prior peer reviewed publications, academic awards, project-specific skills, training or relevant industry experience, referee’s reports and supervisory support.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Strong mathematical background
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • High-level programming experience in Matlab, Python or equivalent
  • Good understanding of dynamical oceanography

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience working in a Unix environment
  • Experience working in a high performance computing environment
  • Ability to produce high quality graphics to illustrate results

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Prof Nathan Bindoff, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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