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Climate change during the early industrial era (OSBORNTU19NERC)

Project Description


Understanding climate change from the beginnings of industrialisation to the early twentieth century is invaluable. It is a period with strong natural variability from volcanism and climate dynamics, and analysing this period is necessary to determine the full amount of human-induced warming. A NERC project (GloSAT) will develop an improved air temperature dataset using early instrumental observations back to 1780. This PhD will combine the new dataset with information from climate ‘proxies’ and from model simulations to assess climate variability during this key period.

Research outline

Climate proxies not only extend the record before the instrumental period but also have value for assessing the instrumental record itself, especially in this early period. You will apply such comparisons to periods and regions where the insight from proxies will be most valuable (e.g. early instrumental Europe where different thermometer exposures contribute to temperature biases and there is a wealth of tree-ring data and documentary evidence; tropical temperature trends in comparison with coral records).

• Evaluate the new GloSAT temperature record for consistency with the proxy records.
• Use proxy-system models to predict proxy records using GloSAT temperatures and other forcing variables taken from last-millennium reanalyses.
• Develop improved quantification of the extent of cooling that follows volcanic eruptions, the overall warming trends during the first century of industrialisation, and the influence of modes of climate variability.


You will gain transferable skills to pursue a range of careers: scientific computing, the ability to use and interpret observational data and computer model outputs, and communication at technical and scientific levels. You will benefit from being part of the GloSAT consortium including collaboration with Ed Hawkins (University of Reading).

Person specification

Degree in a relevant subject area (Environmental Sciences, Physics, Maths, Statistics, Geography or a related discipline), an aptitude for research, numerate and a clear communicator.

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here:
The type of programme: PhD
The start date of the project: October 2019
Mode of study: Full-time
Entry requirements: Minimum entry requirement is 2:1.

Funding Notes

This NERC studentship is funded for 4 years. An annual stipend of £15,009 will be available to the successful candidate who meets the UK Research Council eligibility criteria. These requirements are detailed in the RCUK eligibility guide which can be found at: View Website. In most cases UK and EU nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the course are eligible for a full-award. Other EU nationals may qualify for a fees only award.


i) Anchukaitis K, Wilson R, Briffa KR, Büntgen U, Cook ER, D'Arrigo R, Davi N, Esper J, Frank D, Gunnarson B, Hegerl G, Helema S, Klesse S, Krusic PJ, Linderholm HW, Myglan V, Osborn TJ, Zhang P, Rydval M, Schneider L, Schurer A, Wiles G and Zorita E (2017) Last millennium Northern Hemisphere summer temperatures from tree rings: Part II: spatially resolved reconstructions. Quaternary Science Reviews163, 1-22,

ii) Wang J, Yang B, Ljungqvist FC, Luterbacher J, Osborn TJ, Briffa KR and Zorita E (2017) Internal and external forcing of multidecadal Atlantic climate variability over the past 1,200 years. Nature Geoscience 10, 512-517,

iii) Hawkins E, Ortega P, Suckling E, Schurer A, Hegerl G, Jones P, Joshi M, Osborn TJ, Masson-Delmotte V, Mignot J, Thorne P and van Oldenburgh GJ (2017) Estimating changes in global temperature since the pre-industrial period. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 98, 1841-1856,

iv) Anderson et al. (2013) Global warming in an independent record of the past 130 years. Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, 189-193,

v) Pfeiffer et al. (2017) Indian Ocean corals reveal crucial role of World War II bias for twentieth century warming estimates. Scientific Reports 7, 14434,

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