Climate and Ice
Broadly speaking, I am interested in general questions of climate dynamics, with a specific focus on polar climates.
I have, for example, worked on questions of instability in the Arctic climate - in particular why some studies find that we may abruptly lose all Arctic sea ice, and other studies suggest we won't.
A study to address this question, bridging the gap between idealized models and GCMs, called "The influence of spatial and seasonal variations on the stability of the sea ice cover" can be found here.
Other ongoing projects in this area are concerned with increased poleward ocean heat flux under global warming and the dynamic response of sea ice to changing atmospheric forcing (NSF grant).
A further, related, interest of mine is with the predictability of abrupt climate transitions. Can we identify early warning signals that would indicate climate "tipping points", and potentially even allow us to avoid such tipping points? A study on this topic, entitled "False alarms: How early warning signals falsely predict abrupt sea ice loss" can be found here.
The last dance of A68
(TERRA/MODIS data from EOSDIS Worldview)
Land Ice & Icebergs
Over the last few years, I've been trying to understand better how glaciers, ice shelves, and icebergs decay. My interest here is mostly focused on how the ice interacts with the ocean, and how such interactions can speed up or slow down the melt and break up of glaciers or icebergs.
I have worked on this topic using theory, numerical models, field observations, satellite data, and small-scale lab experiments. My interest in these questions was partially sparked during field work in Baffin Bay in 2012, which led us to study the decay mechanisms of large tabular icebergs. Since then we've published a series of papers on the drift and breakup of icebergs, and we are continuing this work as part of a current NSF grant (in collaboration with Alistair Adcroft and his group at Princeton University).
One highlight of this work was the realization that differential melt at the front of glaciers and at iceberg edges can trigger large-scale calving processes. We've described this process as the "footloose mechanism", and studied its importance for ice shelves, glaciers, and icebergs.
Sea Ice-Ecosystem Interactions
Since joining UNC Wilmington, my group has started collaborating with biological oceanographers Alyson Fleming and Mattias Cape and marine biologists Heather Koopman and Hillary Glandon, to study the impact of sea ice melt on the Arctic ecosystem.
In May 2019 I led an interdisciplinary oceanographic research cruise to Fram Strait to investigate the conditions that lead to recently observed springtime phytoplankton super blooms in the area. This work has been covered by several mainstream media outlets, including CNN and The Guardian.
A first paper that came out of this project (led by undergraduate student Conner Lester) was published in December 2020 in GRL.
From 2009 - 2013 I completed my Ph.D., looking at how thin sheets bend and stick. This is the opening paragraph of my thesis, entitled "Elastocapillarity - Adhesion & Large Deformations of Thin Sheets":
This thesis is concerned with the deformation and adhesion of thin elastic sheets that come into contact with an underlying substrate. The focus of this work is on the interplay between material and geometric properties of a system and how this interplay determines the equilibrium states of sheet and substrate, particularly in the regime of geometrically nonlinear deformations.
The earliest four papers listed on the Publications page contain the central results of the thesis. The full version is accessible here.
The research described in my Ph.D. thesis was performed under the fantastic supervision of Dominic Vella, who is based at the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford.