Michael Coughlan

Academic Profile

I studied a BSc in Physics at University College Cork, Ireland, with a batchelor's project in cosmology (FRW universes), and an MSc at the University of Manchester in Industrial Applied Mathematics where I worked on modelling the motion of iron meteorites suspended in Antarctic ice sheets. For this I used mathematical models, numerical simulations and lab experiments.

Along with my research work in the geosciences, I also work on industry problems through the Mathematics with Industry study groups in the UK and Europe. Some of the problems I have worked on include looking at queueing strategies for an industrial repair process, recreating car crashes from mobile phone data and making improvements to software for counting and tracking crowds.

Current Research

Currently I am modelling the formation and evolution of melt ponds on Arctic sea ice. These features show both independent and collective behaviour and their extent on ice floes has been shown to undergo a percolation process, where they evolve from many, simple, individual ponds to a smaller number of larger ponds with more complex geometries. In order to study the percolation process I am using models from network theory and dynamical systems to build numerical simulations of the evolution of extensive ponding on floes. It is hoped that a greater understanding of the percolation process can improve our estimates of pond coverage through the Sumer melt season, a key element in resolving sea ice in climate models. The model may also be used in the future to examine the break-up of floes along weaknesses in the ice caused by ponding.

As part of my PhD I worked with Polar Scientific Ltd on the SODA project, helping deploy instruments on the ice in the Beaufort Sea during autumn 2019. Data from these instruments will be used to test and enhance the modelling work later this year.


Evatt, G.W. & Coughlan, M.J. (2016). A potential hidden layer of meteorites below the ice surface of Antarctica. Nature Communications 7, Article number: 10679