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PhD Unravelling the Solid Earth Contribution to Sea Level Change (SESeaL)

Sea levels are rising. But how much is due to changes in ocean volume and circulation, and how much is influenced by changes in the shape and gravity of the …

ongeveer 2 maanden geleden


Mekelweg, Delft, Zuid-Holland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
36 - 40 uur
€ 2434 - € 3111 per maand


Sea levels are rising. But how much is due to changes in ocean volume and circulation, and how much is influenced by changes in the shape and gravity of the earth? Those questions are still open, also because available observations of crustal deformation and sea level are sparse in both space and time. Hence, physical models are needed in order to produce accurate predictions along world’s coastlines and support the realization of timely adaptation strategies.

This project focuses on the role of solid earth deformation, which causes vertical land motion and modifies the gravity field, both largely affecting coastal sea level. The main solid earth processes involved at decadal to millennial time scales are 1) the viscoelastic response of the mantle to glacial changes, known as glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA), 2) vertical crustal motion of tectonic origin, including the seismic cycle. An accurate quantification of their contribution to ongoing sea level change is still lacking: only a few GIA models are available, and they show large differences in predictions of regional sea levels, while most tectonic models cannot reliably estimate ranges of vertical deformation. Notably, both classes of models are largely constrained by paleo sea-level observations, which cannot distinguish between signals of glacial or tectonic origin.

This project aims to disentangle GIA from tectonic signals, by developing a numerical model of solid earth deformation that bridges spatial and temporal scales, in order to interpret both space-geodetic and (paleo) sea level observations. It will represent a major step forward in understanding the earth’s glacial history, and in unravelling the effect of climate change and tectonics on sea level. As a case study, it will focus on the Pacific coast of North America, where extensive datasets of (paleo) sea level and widespread geodetic observations of crustal deformation are available, and where both GIA and tectonics play a major role in controlling regional sea level changes. Methodological advances will have a general value and provide new tools to constrain GIA and tectonic signals worldwide.

Your PhD project will be supervised by Dr. Riccardo Riva (TU Delft) and Dr. Rob Govers (Utrecht University). In addition to an exciting research project and a friendly and stimulating work environment, we can offer you generous funds for scientific travel.


We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate, motivated to work in a multidisciplinary environment. The candidate should have an MSc in physics, mathematics, engineering, or earth sciences, with a solid background and interest in geophysics and/or fluid dynamics, numerical modelling of physical processes, and very good programming skills. Candidates should be curious, with cross-disciplinary interests, and critical thinkers. Those skills should be addressed by the candidate in their motivation letter.

Moreover, they should communicate fluently in English (orally and in writing). For applicants who are not English native speakers or do not hold a degree from an institution in which English is the language of instruction, a proof of English proficiency should be submitted from either TOEFL (minimum total score of 100) or IELTS (minimum total score of 7.0). Proof of English language proficiency certificates older than two years will not be accepted.

TU Delft offers an excellent and stimulating research environment with extensive available infrastructure and expertise. The start date of the position is negotiable.


TU Delft offers PhD-candidates a 4-year contract, with an official go/no go progress assessment after one year. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2.434 per month in the first year to € 3.111 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

Additional information

For more information about this vacancy, please contact Dr. Riccardo Riva, email: R.E.M.Riva@tudelft.nl.