Postdoc position on mass changes of mountain glaciers (1.0 FTE)

Updated: 12 days ago

Postdoc position on mass changes of mountain glaciers (1.0 FTE)

Job description

The ice volume stored in mountain glaciers is only a fraction of that in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Yet, combined they represent the largest land ice contributor to sea level rise in the 20th century, and will continue to play a prominent role in the decades to come. Although it is well established that mountain glaciers are losing mass rapidly, quantification of the processes driving these changes remains challenging. Surface mass balance (SMB) processes - such as snowfall and melt - are driven by the atmosphere, whereas glacier discharge through ice dynamics are predominantly modulated by ice-ocean interaction and internal processes. Clearly, the physics driving the two processes leading to mass loss are very different, and require a different approach to be included in climate models. The role of changes in ice dynamics was not included in the sea level projections of the AR5 IPCC report, and improving our knowledge of the relative importance of the two processes has been identified as one of the major challenges for future research.
For the NWO-funded VIDI project ‘Disentangling ice loss of mountain glaciers and ice caps’, we are looking for a postdoc who will improve our understanding of the contribution of ice dynamics to the mass balance of mountain glaciers by exploiting the ever growing availability of high-resolution remote sensing data and regional climate model SMB output, and recent improvements in glacier thickness estimates. Possible data sources may include (but are not limited to) CryoSat-2, ICESat-2 and ArcticDEM elevation data to identify grounding line locations of outlet glaciers; Sentinel-1 and other SAR satellites to monitor changes in ice flow velocities and calving front location; dynamically downscaled SMB data from RACMO2 and regional climate models; and thickness estimates from the ice thickness models intercomparison experiment (ITMIX). Your results will be combined with estimates of the total mass change of the mountain glaciers developed by a colleague in the project to further partition the contribution of SMB and ice dynamics.
As the successful candidate you will have a certain degree of freedom in setting up your own research, within the constraints of the project goals. Your application should therefore include a brief outline of your research plan, methodology and data you intend to use.
We aim to start this position as soon as possible. Duration of the position depends on your starting date with a fixed end date of the project on November 30, 2023.


We are looking for a dedicated and ambitious candidate who has

  • a PhD in remote sensing, geodesy, glaciology or a related discipline;
  • a clear vision on the current knowledge gaps and challenges in remote sensing of mountain glacier mass loss;
  • understanding of glaciological processes and experience in handling and interpreting remote sensing data in glacier regions;
  • strong programming skills and experience in development of data processing algorithms;
  • good reporting and presentation skills;
  • excellent level of written and spoken English;
  • the ability to work independently, to critically assess own results and to cooperate within a wider research team;
  • Eexperience in handling large data sets and parallel computing, high performance computing or cloud computing.

  • the freedom to design your own research plan;
  • a full-time position of up to 36 months;
  • a full-time gross salary depending on previous qualifications and experience ranging between €2,790 and €4,402 per month (scale 10 of the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (cao));
  • benefits including 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment yourself via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.
More information about working at the Faculty of Science can be found here .

About the organization

The Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht (IMAU) offers a unique research and teaching environment, in which the fundamentals of the climate system are studied. Research is organized in five themes: Atmospheric Dynamics, Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry, Coastal and Shelf Sea Dynamics, Ice and Climate and Oceans and Climate. In 2017, IMAU research quality and impact were qualified as 'world leading' by an international visitation committee. Currently, IMAU employs 15 faculty members and 10 support staff and some 20 Postdocs and 20 PhD candidates.
The Ice and Climate group at IMAU is an inspiring, high-quality and versatile research group focusing on ice sheets, sea level, and climate. The group is world-leading in modelling of the ice sheet surface including firn, and maintains a dedicated network of automatic weather stations. Currently, our research group has 5 staff members, 10 Postdocs and 8 PhD candidates. For this project, we encourage and provide financial support for visits to conferences, workshops and summer schools, and we promote national and international exchange visits.
At the Faculty of Science there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes which work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.
Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our familiar atmosphere and the can-do mentality of our people. This lively and inspiring academic environment attracts professors, researchers and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the University and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international community and wonderfully diverse.

Additional information

If you have any questions that you’d like us to answer, please contact Bert Wouters ( ).
Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to .


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, then simply respond via the “Apply now” button!
Please enclose:

  • a letter of motivation including a brief description (2-3 paragraphs) of your intended research plan;
  • your Curriculum vitae;
  • the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two references;
  • the abstract of your PhD thesis

If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone else who may be interested, please forward the link to them.
Please note: Due to the current situation regarding the Corona virus (COVID-19) the process of selection and interviews is subject to change. Initial interviews will most likely be conducted online.
Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them

The application deadline is 15/11/2020
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