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Climate and weather extremes in early instrumental records: causes, mechanisms, consequences

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  • Full or part time
    Dr G Hegerl
    Dr E Hawkins
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This PhD project is one of two PhD projects arising from the NERC-funded consortium GloSAT. GloSAT will extend the observed surface temperature record back into the 18th century, and extend the coverage of historical climate change data using historical ship data, logbooks and other sources. The student will identify past extreme seasonal and monthly events over both land and ocean, making use of multiple data sources including climate model data and palaeoclimatic data. The physical mechanisms and spatial extent of early extremes will be analysed where possible, using historical weather analysis data and early observations of sea level pressure, many of which are now becoming available. Climate models output will be used to identify mechanisms and possible causes of these events.

The student will determine if the probability of individual events has been affected by external drivers such as volcanic eruptions, and changes in the sun, building on techniques used to interpret recent extreme weather events. They will also determine the extent to which the events are influenced by large-scale climate variability, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), Atlantic Multidecadal Variability (AMV) or El Nino, drawing on GloSAT project results. For example, the hypothesis will be explored if record cold winters tend to occur during solar minima in Europe (Lockwood et al., Env. Res. Let. 2010), and to what extent anomalously warm and wet winters follow volcanic eruptions.

Analysis of temperature extremes over the ocean will investigate what drives marine heat waves and cold spells. This is necessary for understanding to what extent extreme marine heat waves might superimpose on the warming trend in the future, with potentially devastating consequences for marine life such as corals. This will help place possible future events into the context of rare past events, for example, by addressing the question ’what would this event be like if it occurred today’.

The student will be part of the interdisciplinary UK-wide project team comprising researchers from the National Oceanography Centre, the Met Office and the Universities of Edinburgh, Reading, East Anglia, Southampton and York. He or She will be supervised by Hegerl, supported by Ed Hawkins (Reading) and Andrew Schurer (Edinburgh). Hawkins will be consulted at least quarterly, either adjacent to a project meeting, or through a visit. The student will be connected to the newly funded and vibrant Edinburgh Earth, Ecology and Environment DTP (18 students/year) and will join Hegerl’s research group. The student will be trained by the NERC DTP (transferrable skills, writing, computing and presentation skills) and apply for external training in suitable summer schools. Scientifically, the student will learn scientific data analysis, mechanisms of climate variability and extreme events, extreme value statistics, climate modelling, climate model analysis and gain an understanding of quantitative and rigorous analysis approaches.

Funding Notes

The project is funded by NERC and is only open to applications from UK/ EU citizens. In order to be fully eligible you must be a UK or EU citizen with permanent settled status in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship in September 2019.

The successful applicant will be fully funded for 4 years and will receive a stipend of £15,009pa; home/EU tuition fees and research costs.



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