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Polar Ocean Physics Group

Centre for Mathematical Sciences
Wilberforce Road, Cambridge CB3 0WB
United Kingdom


Professor of Ocean Physics,
and Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group
in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge.

My office is in Pavilion F - Room F0.04

CMS: Telephone +44 (0)1223 760372 (direct line)
Secretary at CMS: +44 (0)1223 760370 (Olivia Low)


Peter's first degree was a BA (Hons.) in Physics at Churchill College, Cambridge. While at college he was an assistant on the "Hudson-70" Expedition, an 11-month Canadian cruise which accomplished the first circumnavigation of the Americas. This included multidisciplinary oceanographic and marine geophysical work in South Atlantic, Antarctic, Chilean fjords, S and N Pacific, Beaufort Sea and NW Passage.

From 1970-74 he studied for a PhD at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge on "The effect of a sea ice cover on ocean surface waves". His PhD was awarded in April 1974. From 1974-75 Peter was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Ocean Sciences, Victoria, B.C., Canada, working on sea ice structure and dynamics in the Beaufort Sea and the impact of oil spills.

In January 1976 Peter returned to Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, initially as a Senior Research Associate (Principal Investigator for Office of Naval Research). From 1981 he was an Assistant Director of Research; from 1987 to 1992 Peter was Director of the Institute. From 1992 he was a Reader in Polar Studies, and in 1994 was awarded a ScD (Cantab) for published work. Since 2001 he has been Professor of Ocean Physics.

In January 2003 the Sea Ice and Polar Oceanography Group moved to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge - with an observational science section based in the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS) at Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory (DML), Oban, Scotland.

Peter has also held the following visiting positions:-

1980-81. Office of Naval Research Chair of Arctic Marine Science, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.
1987-88. Cecil and Ida Green Scholar at Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla; and Walker-Ames Professor, University of Washington, Seattle. Further visits to Scripps in 1988-9 and 1989-90, working with acoustic tomography group (Walter Munk) on effect of sea ice on acoustic travel time changes.
1995. Invited Visiting Professor, Arctic Environmental Research Centre, National Institute of Polar Research, Tokyo, Japan.
1996-7. British Council - Monbusho Visiting Professor at Graduate University of Advanced Studies, Tokyo, Japan, based at National Institute of Polar Research. Further visits undertaken in 2000-1 supported by Royal Society grant for developing Anglo-Japanese collaboration in Arctic marine science.

1983-93. Senior Research Fellow, Churchill College, Cambridge.


1971 Bronze medal, Goverrment of Canada, for being one of six to complete "Hudson-70" circumnavigation.

1977 W.S. Bruce Prize, Royal Society of Edinburgh, "for oceanographic investigations and for studies of pack ice behaviour near Spitsbergen, the North Pole and off East Greenland".

1983 Elected Fellow of the Arctic Institute of North America "in recognition of significant contributions to the knowledge of the polar and sub-polar regions"

1987 The Polar Medal (presented by H.M. The Queen)

1990 Italgas Prize for Research and Innovation in Environmental Sciences, Turin. Currently member of Club Premio Italgas, organising research network on sustainable development.



International - current

President, IAPSO (International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Ocean) Commission on Sea Ice.

Co-ordinator, International Programme for Antarctic Buoys (IPAB), World Climate Research Programme, 1998-

Co-ordinator, INTERICE project, 1998- (consortium of European laboratories using ice tank at Hamburg for sea ice physics experiments)

Co-ordinator, CONVECTION project (EU research programme on Greenland Sea convection; 10 laboratories from 7 countries).

UK delegate, EU COST Action 714 (Directional Spectrum of Ocean Waves).

Member, SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) Group of Specialists on Global Change in the Antarctic (GLOCHANT), Working Group on Sea Ice: member of Scientific Steering Committee, ASPECT (Antarctic Sea-ice properties and climate), the GLOCHANT programme for Antarctic sea ice research.

Member, EuroGOOS (Global Ocean Observing System) Arctic Task Team.

Member, NASA Sea Ice Algorithm Working Group.

Member, Working Group 6 (Hydrology) of Commission VII (Interpretation of Data) of ISPRS (Intl. Soc. of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing).

International - Past:
Co-ordinator, ESOP (European Subpolar Ocean Programme), a targeted programme of the EC MAST-2 Initiative, 1993-6; Co-ordinator, Antarctic Programme for PIPOR (Programme for International Polar Oceans Research), European Space Agency, 1986-94; British delegate, Arctic Ocean Sciences Board (1984-94).

British - current

Member, UK Committees for WOCE (World Ocean Circulation Experiment) and GOOS (Global Ocean Observing System).

Member, National Arctic Research Forum (FCO).

Member, Anglo-French SAR Expert Panel (DERA/CNES)

British - past:
Member, NERC Polar Sciences Committee; Interdisciplinary Science Committee on Antarctic Research (Royal Society).

Member of Organizing Committee and Convenor of Polar Session, Oceanology International '94, Brighton, April 1994, and Oceanology International '96, March 1996.
Member of Scientific Committee, IAPSO Advanced Study Institute on the Physics of Ice-Covered Seas, Savonlinna, Finland, June 6-17 1994.
Conference Director, ITC'94 (Fourth International Conference on Ice Technology), Southampton, Sept 1994.
Co-organizer, "The Arctic and Environmental Change", Royal Society Discussion Meeting, Oct 12-13 1994.
Convenor, Sea Ice Dynamics Session, Nordic Seas Symposium, Hamburg, 7-9 Mar 1995.
Member of Organizing Committee, ISOPE '95 (International Society of Offshore and Polar Engineers), The Hague, May 1995, and ISOPE'96, Los Angeles, May 1996.
Member of Scientific Committee, POAC-99, Helsinki (Int. Conf. on Port & Ocean Engng. under Arctic Condns).
Convenor of session P13 on ice-ocean dynamics, IUGG-99 (International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics), Birmingham, July 1999.

Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS); American Geophysical Union; European Geophysical Society; International Glaciological Society; International Association Hydrological Sciences; Remote Sensing Society; Challenger Society for Marine Science; Alliance for Marine Remote Sensing; The Oceanography Society; Society for the Application of Research; Society for Scientific Exploration; Arctic Club; Antarctic Club; The Explorers' Club (New York).

1979 Squire, V. A. Dynamics of ocean waves in a continuous sea ice cover.
1982 Langhorne, P. Crystal alignment in sea ice.
1983 Kristensen, M. Antarctic tabular icebergs in ocean waves.
1984 Bratchie, I. L. Modelling sea ice floe fields.
1988 Crocker, G. Physical processes in Antarctic landfast sea ice.
1989 O'Farrell, S. Ocean fronts at sea ice boundaries.
1990 Rottier, P. Wave/ice interactions in the marginal ice zone and the generation of ocean noise.
1992 Gray, N.M. Antarctic sea ice modelling.
1994 Sheard, D. Acoustic wave propagation in ice-covered oceans (with B.J.Uscinski).
1995 Brandon, M.A. Winter surface water mass modification in the Greenland Sea.
1995 Low, D. The validation of ERS-1 SAR data for Antarctic summer sea ice (MSc thesis, University of Dundee).
1997 Tadross, M. Remote sensing of young ice in the Greenland Sea.
1998 Huddleston, M. Modelling the sea ice thickness distribution in the Greenland Sea.
1999 Cottier, F. Brine drainage channels in young sea ice.
2000 Brigham, Capt. L. Sea ice variability in Russian Arctic coastal seas: influence on the Northern Sea Route.

Current PhD students (with funding agency):
I. Jonsdottir (Icelandic citizen) Historical sea ice variability in the Greenland Sea from Icelandic sources. (EU).
Y. Aksenov (Russian citizen, formerly of Arctic and Antarctic Research Inst., St. Petersburg). Sea ice cover deformation and its relationship to atmosphere-ocean processes. (EU).
R. Hall Development of automatic sea ice classification algorithms from SAR imagery (NERC-CASE with Earth Observation Sciences Ltd., Farnham).
D. Flocco (Italian citizen). Modelling of Antarctic polynya dynamics. (NERC and Italian Government).

1978-date Editor, "Iceberg Research" (Newsletter published by SPRI).
1984-date Editorial Board, "Cold Regions Science and Technology" (Elsevier)
1989-date Advisory Editorial Board, "Polar Record" (Cambridge University Press)
1991-date Associate Editor, "Oceanography" (The Oceanography Society, Washington D.C.)
1996-date Associate Editor, "Journal of Physical Oceanography".


1969-70 "Hudson-70" circumnavigation of Americas.

1971 Wave measurements under ice in Arctic, HM submarine "Oracle"

1971 Airborne laser profiling from Thule, Greenland

1973 Transarctic laser-SLAR flight, Canada-Norway

1974 Greely Fjord, Ellesmere Island, polar fjord oceanography

1975 Oil spills under ice, Amundsen Gulf, Beaufort Sea

1975 AIDJEX (Arctic Ice Dynamics Joint Experiment), laser profiling, Beaufort Sea

1976 Under-ice thickness profiling, HM nuclear submarine "Sovereign"

1978 Wave-ice experiments, Labrador Sea, MV "Gadus Atlantica"

1978 Wave-ice experiments, Newfoundland, CSS "Labrador"

1978 Wave-ice experiments, East Greenland, from Danish base

1979 Wave-ice experiments, East Greenland, from Danish base

1980 "Ymer-80" Swedish Arctic icebreaker expedition

1980-1 Iceberg studies in South Atlantic, HMS "Endurance"

1983 MIZEX-West (Marginal Ice Zone Experiment), Bering Sea marginal ice zone study, "Discoverer"

1983 MIZEX-83, Greenland Sea MIZ experiment, "Polarbjørn"

1984 MIZEX-84, Greenland Sea MIZ experiment, phase 1 "Polarstern"; phase 2 "Kvitbjørn"

1986 Winter Weddell Sea Project, Antarctica, "Polarstern"

1987 Under-ice thickness profiling, HM nuclear submarine "Superb"

1989 Winter Weddell Gyre Study, Antarctica, "Polarstern"

1991, 1992 Northwest Passage ice-remote sensing studies, "Frontier Spirit"

1993 Airborne sonobuoy/acoustic convection study, Greenland Sea

1993 ESOP ice programme, Greenland Sea, "Polarstern"

1993 Lady Franklin Memorial Expedition (archaeology), NW Passage

1993 SIMI (Sea Ice Mechanics Initiative) ice camp, Beaufort Sea

1994 SIMI Spring Experiment, Beaufort Sea

1995 Ice edge physics - remote sensing, Weddell Sea, HMS "Endurance"

1996 Under-ice thickness profiling and oceanography, HM submarine "Trafalgar"

1997 Chief scientist on ESOP-2 cruise of RV "Jan Mayen" to Odden ice tongue, Greenland Sea for ice-ocean physics study

2000 Chief scientist on NERC ARCICE cruise of RV "Jan Mayen" to Odden ice tongue, Greenland Sea, for integrated physics-biology study.

2001 Leader of CONVECTION winter cruise to Greenland Sea in RV "Lance" to detect convective chimneys


Peter has been a Principal Investigator for the Arctic Program (latterly High-Latitude Dynamics Program) of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) continuously from 1976 to 1997. This support has continued to present (1997-2001) by National Science Foundation.

During this time he has worked on:-

With support from the UK Natural Environment Research Council and other UK sources, Peter also worked extensively on Antarctic problems, including:-

NERC has also supported or helped support much of the Arctic work described above, including ice thickness measurement and analysis, and work on wave-ice interaction and convection in the Greenland Sea.

A new NERC project starting in October 2001 is the AUV-under-ice programme, in which we are funded to 208K to use Autosub in coastal polynyas in the Weddell Sea and Fram Strait.

With European Commission support Peter was Co-ordinator of a large (22 institutions from 7 countries, 8 million ECU budget) interdisciplinary study of convection and the thermohaline circulation in the Greenland Sea, known as ESOP, the European Subpolar Ocean Programme (1993-7). This project continued in a second phase (ESOP-2) until 1999, and he then continued similar work as PI for a project in the NERC ARCICE thematic programme, to continue to study the Odden ice tongue and Greenland Sea convection mechanisms. Other current or recently completed European Commission projects are:-

New EU projects which started in 2001 are:-

As well as programmes described above, he is currently involved in an NSF-funded programme to map ice thickness and upper ocean characteristics from the Greenland Sea and Eurasian Basin obtained during recent (1996) and forthcoming UK submarine cruises, and to compare these with equivalent US data from the Eurasian and Canada Basins obtained during the SCICEX program.

His chief industrial links in ice research have been with the offshore oil and marine transport industries. He received continuous support from British Petroleum Co. from 1976 until 1992 for his research group at SPRI, covering funding of a technician and support for the design and development of novel instrumentation for use in Arctic ice engineering, e.g. wire and rod strainmeters; acceleration-tilt arrays; wave buoys for use in ice-covered waters; and satellite-tracked ice data buoys. Currently his group is involved in ice buoy design and in developing IceCam, a stop-action video recording system for unmanned monitoring of sea ice during icebreaker operations.

Peter is married to Maria Pia Casarini, of Milan, Italy.

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Transferred from SPRI website, March 2003.
Updated by Oliver Merrington, POPG Webmaster
May 2003.