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Chasing convective storm evolution with swarms of space-borne Ka-band radars (CENTA2-PHYS10-BATT1)

Project Description

Convective storms are the heart of the Earth’s weather and climate system: they convey most of the transport of water and air from near the Earth’s surface to the upper troposphere, they affect the large-scale atmospheric circulation, they are linked to the Earth’s water budget by producing large amounts of rainfall and they influence the Earth’s radiation budget via formation of widespread high clouds. Though convective vertical transport plays a pivotal role, predictions of current weather and future climates remain limited because the parametrizations of such transport are crude; this represents a major roadblock towards the refinement of weather forecasting and climate models. Global observations of convective vertical mass flux are urgently needed for significant progress to occur.

The launch of the first ever cloud 8-mm wavelength radar on a Cubesat (RainCube) in July 2018 has paved the way towards a new era for space-borne observations of convective systems. The small size (10 cm×20 cm×20 cm), moderate mass (21 kg) and low power (10 W peak power) requirement of the instrument enable constellation missions, which can augment our ability to observe weather systems and their dynamics and thermodynamics down to temporal resolutions of a few minutes, as required for observing developing convection (see Figure 1). This offers a cheaper but unprecedented solution for capturing the storm dynamics. When a constellation of micro-satellites is flying in formation 60-90 seconds apart, time-sequenced profiles of radar reflectivity (Z) separated seconds apart (ΔZ) can be acquired. Together Z and ΔZ/ Δt can be used to provide: (i) the mass fluxes of condensed water mass and dry air and (ii) the rates at which the upper regions of convective storms are moistened.

The profiles of Z additionally provide profiles of condensed water (M) in the column and the precipitation falling from convective storms. The radar has demonstrated the maturity of the technology and NASA is planning to launch a constellation of such Raincube to better understand convective processes which remain one of the major roadblocks in the improvement of numerical weather prediction. The challenge now is to use the radar data to produce scientifically relevant results.

Entry Requirements:

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.

Available for UK and EU applicants only.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility:

How to Apply:

Please follow refer to the How to Apply section at and use the Physics Apply button to submit your PhD application.

Upload your CENTA Studentship Form in the proposal section of the application form.

In the funding section of the application please indicate you wish to be considered for NERC CENTA Studentship.

Under the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisor and project title/project code you want to apply for.

Funding Notes

This project is one of a number of fully funded studentships available to the best UK and EU candidates available as part of the NERC DTP CENTA consortium.

For more details of the CENTA consortium please see the CENTA website: View Website.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility: View Website

The studentship includes a 3.5 year tuition fee waiver at UK/EU rates

An annual tax free stipend (For 2019/20 this is currently £15,009)

Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) of £8,000.


Web page:

Eva Peral, Travis Imken, Jonathan Sauder, Shannon Statham, Simone Tanelli, Douglas Price, Nacer Chahat, Austin Williams, "RainCube, a Ka-band Precipitation Radar in a 6U CubeSat," Proceedings of the 31st Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, Logan UT, USA, Aug. 5-10, 2017, paper: SSC17-III-03, URL:

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