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Durham University

Department of Geography

Ice, Oceans and Climate Interactions Through the Quaternary (MSc or PhD)

Supervised by Professor Erin McClymont & Dr Jerry Lloyd

Keywords: Ocean Circulation, Sea Surface Temperatures, Abrupt Climate Change, Land - Ocean Correlations, Ocean - Ice Sheet Interactions.

The oceans are a key part of modern climate through their impact on heat and moisture transport, and the presence of an extensive biosphere. Understanding how the oceans have behaved in the past offers insight into the drivers and impacts of global climate change under a variety of conditions. Over the last 3 million years there have been shifts in glaciation intensity and duration, monsoon strength, and the ecology of both the marine and terrestrial realms. Several systems (e.g. the ENSO system, the Indian-Atlantic Ocean connection, Southern Ocean) are thought to have been important in these events (Martinez-Garcia et al., 2010; McClymont & Rosell-Mele, 2005; Turney & Jones, 2010), but acceptance of these hypotheses requires detailed reconstructions of ocean circulation change. There also remains continued debate about the potential drivers of northern hemisphere ice-sheet growth during the Quaternary (e.g. McClymont et al., 2008). One remaining challenge includes identifying and understanding whether climate change led to synchronous ice-sheet growth and decay, and if not, why not?

This project will focus on understanding the relationship between ocean circulation change in the North Pacific and the onset and behaviour of the northwest Cordilleran ice-sheet through the Quaternary. In 2013 a new suite of marine sediment cores will be collected from the Alaskan margin by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP, Leg 341). The focus of this project will be to analyse these marine sediments using a range of techniques, including organic geochemistry (biomarkers) and microfossils. These will give insights into sea-surface temperature change, surface and deep ocean circulation change, and the marine ecology response. Excellent laboratory facilities are available within the department, and full training will be given.


Martinez-Garcia, A., Rosell-Mele, A., McClymont, E.L., Gersonde, R., Haug, G.H. (2010) Subpolar Link to the Emergence of the Modern Equatorial Pacific Cold Tongue. Science 328, 1550-1553.
McClymont, E.L. and A. Rosell-Melé (2005) Links between the onset of modern Walker Circulation and the mid-Pleistocene climate transition. Geology 33, 389-392.
McClymont, E.L., Rosell-Mele, A., Haug, G. & Lloyd, J.M. (2008) Expansion of subarctic water masses in the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans and implications for mid-Pleistocene ice sheet growth. Paleoceanography. 23, PA4214.
Turney, C.S. and R.T. Jones (2010) Does the Agulhas Current amplify global temperatures during super-interglacials? Journal of Quaternary Science 25, 839-843. IODP Leg 341 Webpage:

Note: Further MSc or PhD projects are available investigating ocean - ice sheet - climate interactions, including studies from the Greenland margin and the tropical Pacific. For further information on this or alternative projects please contact Dr Erin McClymont ( and / or Dr Jerry Lloyd (

To apply for this project please visit the How to Apply page for further information.