Arctic role for Sunderland student

Matthew Ayre
Matthew Ayre
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A Wearside graduate has headed for the arctic to continue his studies.

Matthew Ayre, a Sunderland PhD student, whose research revealed secrets of early 19th century ice fronts in the Arctic, is continuing his work at the Arctic Institute of North America.

Matthew Ayre at the University of Calgary.

Matthew Ayre at the University of Calgary.

Matthew was offered a Post Doctoral Fellowship at the Institute, based at the University of Calgary in Canada, as a result of his work on the ARCdoc research project, led by the University of Sunderland.

ARCdoc analysed historical logbooks recorded by explorers, whalers and merchants during epic expeditions between 1750 and 1850.

The project was created to increase scientific understanding of climate change in this environmentally important region.

Some of the most significant data to emerge from the project came from painstaking analysis of 60 logbooks belonging to whaling vessels, which contain descriptions of sea ice advancing and retreating every summer, all of which were recorded by whalers who ventured farther north than anyone else.

The ARCdoc project was an incredible experience and has led to this life-changing opportunity

Matthew Ayre

For his PhD, Matthew mapped what the ice was doing during some of that 100-year period around the David Straits area, and at a time pre-dating the emergence of significant volumes of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

A comparison with satellite data from the last 30 years of this area shows the summer ice was then far more advanced than it is today.

Now considered a leading expert on historical log book analysis, the 29-year-old, is continuing his research with historical logbooks as part of the Northern Seas project at the Arctic Institute.

Matthew said: “I’m very excited to be starting this new opportunity in Calgary. The ARCdoc project was an incredible experience and has led to this life-changing opportunity at the ARCdoc institute.

“It’s new territory, exploring the Canadian archives, looking for new data and methods to analyse it.”

Maribeth Murray, director of the Arctic Institute of North America based at the University of Calgary, says: “Matt brings us needed expertise around the historical climatology of the Arctic. Obviously, he has an incredible amount of patience to make his way through so many old logbooks and he still retains a sense of humour. We are really pleased to have him here for the next few years.”

To understand how the data relates to today’s ice cover decline, Matthew had to translate the whaler’s archaic terminology into the first ever sea ice dictionary in standard 21st Century observational vocabulary.