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Chasing convective storm evolution with swarms of space-borne Ka-band radars

About This PhD Project

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 (10cm × 20cm × 20cm), 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 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 scientific relevant results.

Two main activities are envisaged for the PhD project. The first activity will be focused at analysing the data acquired by RainCube looking at specific issues encountered during the in-orbit demonstrator period (e.g. pointing accuracy, calibration, sensitivities, quality of the pulse compression). Secondly, algorithms for water mass and air mass fluxes and for condensate vertical velocity and air vertical velocity will be developed for a mission involving a constellation of RainCubes, currently under study. In addition to the RainCube observations, ultra-high-resolution model simulations of tropical ocean convection using the System for Atmospheric Modelling will be exploited. The student will use such simulations and forward space-borne Doppler simulator to investigate the ability of a constellation of micro-satellites to study the vertical transport of air and condensate in deep convective clouds.

This project offers an excellent opportunity to develop and apply novel radar techniques to remote sensing of clouds and precipitation.
The student will be trained in a wide range of topics including radar meteorology, cloud physics, radiative transfer and precipitation remote sensing. Applicants should have a science or engineering degree. Knowledge of meteorology would be beneficial. Programming skills in matlab/idl/Python/C/Java/C++ and knowledge of signal propagation and numerical modelling could also be beneficial.

Funding details:
This studentship 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:
Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility:
Entry requirements:
Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject. The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable.

How to apply:
Please refer to the CENTA Studentship application information on our website for details of how to apply
As part of the application process you will need to:
• Complete a CENTA Funding form – to be uploaded to your PhD application
• Complete and submit your PhD application online applying for Physics Research. Indicate project CENTA2-NCEO-BATT in the

funding section.
• Complete an online project selection form Apply for CENTA2-NCEO-BATT

Project / Funding Enquiries: Dr. Alessandro Battaglia,

Application enquiries to

Closing date for applications: 21st January 2019 (12pm midday)

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