Peter Wadhams


Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics


Scott Polar Research Institute (University of Cambridge)

peter.wadhams [at]


United Kingdom

Brief Biography

Peter Wadhams is the UK’s most experienced sea ice scientist, with 46 years of research on sea ice and ocean processes in the Arctic and the Antarctic. This has focused on expeditions and measurements in the field, which has involved more than 50 expeditions to both polar regions, working from ice camps, icebreakers, aircraft, and, uniquely, Royal Navy submarines (6 submerged voyages to North Pole ). His research group in Cambridge has been the only UK group with the capacity to carry out field work on sea ice.

He is Professor of Ocean Physics (Emeritus since 2015) and is the author of numerous publications on dynamics and thermodynamics of sea ice, sea ice thickness, waves in ice, icebergs, ocean convection and kindred topics. The current main topics of research in the group are sea ice properties, dynamics and distributions in thickness and concentration. He is also a pioneer in the use of AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles) under sea ice, using multibeam sonar to map bottom features, work which he has also been done from UK nuclear submarines.

He began his research career at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University, where he rose to become Director. He moved to his present position in 2001. He has also held visiting professorships in Tokyo (National Institute of Polar Research), Monterey (US Naval Postgraduate School), Seattle (University of Washington) and La Jolla (Green Scholar at Scripps Institution of Oceanography).

He was coordinator of several European Union Arctic flagship projects (ESOP, GreenICE, CONVECTION and others) and is currently on the Steering Committee of the EU ICE-ARC project as well as a major US Office of Naval Research initiative in the Arctic. He served eight years on the Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency and has served on panels of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).

In 1990 he received the Italgas Prize for Environmental Sciences, and he has also been awarded the Polar Medal (UK) (1987) and the W.S. Bruce Prize of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. As well as being Professor at Cambridge he is an Associate Professor at the Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche, run by Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, and is a Professor at the Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona. He is a Member of the Finnish Academy and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.


Sea Ice, Permafrost, Land Ice/Glaciers, Physical Science, Engineering

Science Specialties

Sea ice, polar oceanography, icebergs, offshore methane, climate change

Current Research

Interaction of waves and sea ice in Arctic Ocean; satellite detection of pancake ice; use of AUVs to map under-ice surface; ice thickness variability; methane emissions from Arctic shelves; Arctic climate feedbacks