PhD “Effects of Tidal-Induced Fluid Dynamics for the Moons of Jupiter and Saturn”

The Royal NIOZ, in collaboration with TU Delft, is looking for a highly-motivated PhD candidate on numerical modelling in physical oceanography and its application to the dynamics of shallow interior oceans of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

VACANCY ID:         2017-037
CLOSING DATE:    JUNE 1st, 2017



The Estuarine and Delta Systems (EDS) department at Yerseke aims to understand how the interplay between organisms, hydrodynamics, sediment dynamics and biochemistry shapes the estuarine and delta environment, and how it affects the functioning and resilience of the diverse natural communities living there.

Central to our department is a multidisciplinary approach that combines state-of-art biophysical and biochemical measurements, remote sensing, and manipulative experiments with mathematical and numerical modelling to create in-depth understanding of the processes that control estuarine and delta systems.

The Royal NIOZ, being an NWO institute collaborating with Utrecht University, has numerical expertise and laboratory facilities on physical oceanography at both the EDS department at Yerseke and the Ocean Systems (OCS) department on Texel.

Connecting physical oceanography with planetary exploration is to be performed at the Department of Space Engineering (SpE) of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering of TU Delft. Inside SpE, the Chair of Planetary Exploration is dedicated to planetary missions and their many applications. For more information, please visit TU Delft or the Space Institute showcase.



Jupiter’s moon Europa likely harbours an ocean that is considered to be even larger than the Earth’s ocean volume. Saturn’s moon Enceladus shows all the signs of a water basin underlying its South Polar Terrain (SPT) and is also thought to have a global shallow fluid layer underneath the surface ice. Even the most volcanically active body in the Solar System, Jupiter’s moon Io, could have mantle layers that partly are likely more fluid than solid. Energy considerations indicate that tidal dissipation within those fluid layers might be as important as solid tides dissipation for the total energy budget of these objects. Still, in the vast majority of studies on icy moons and Io over the past 20 years, only solid tides are considered.

This research project enters the largely unexplored terrain of tidal-induced dynamical inviscid fluid motions for Io and icy moons and their possible connections to surface phenomena like spatiotemporal evolving volcanism on Io and surface fault patterns on icy moons.

First numerical model and laboratory experiments at the Royal NIOZ on Texel indicate that tidal interaction with internal oceans and seas can result in entirely different dynamical phenomena than their solid viscoelastic counterparts. The characteristic tiger-stripe pattern of Enceladus’ SPT as triggered by tidal fluid wave attractors that focus energy and suspensions might be just one example of a new class of fluid tidal-dominated phenomena for the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Numerical simulations on tidal-induced fluid motions will be combined with those of solid tides, and their joint action will be compared with planetary mission data.

Results from this research project are important for future missions to the outer planets and their moons, specifically for ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) and NASA’s Europa Clipper missions.



Potential candidates are expected to have a university degree (MSc) in either physics, applied mathematics, earth and planetary sciences, geodesy, space engineering or a related area and should have a strong background in numerical modelling. Knowledge about physical oceanography, astronomy and/or space missions would be advantageous. Applicants must be proficient in spoken and written English.

The successful candidate will focus on numerical modelling of the dynamics of shallow ocean layers in the interiors of moons in general and their applications to the Galilean moons of Jupiter and the moons Titan and Enceladus of Saturn in particular. Also, Pluto might be considered.

The project will be hosted by the department of Estuarine and Delta Systems (EDS) at the Royal NIOZ in Yerseke. The candidate is supposed to spend part of the 4-year period at the department of Space Engineering at TU Delft.

Work visits to JPL - NASA and the University of California at Berkeley (space mission and telescopic observations) and Paris Observatory (tidal forcing models) are an integral part of the work and the candidate must be able to spend some time in the US and France.



We offer you a fulltime position for 4 years, a yearly 8% vacation allowance, year-end bonus and flexible employment conditions. Our labour policies are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of Research Centres. Cost of relocation and help with housing is provided by the Royal NIOZ.

For more information about this position, please contact: prof. dr. Bert Vermeersen.

For additional information about the procedure, please contact Jolanda Evers (sr. HR advisor).

An assessment is part of the application procedure.


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