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Evolution of monsoon rainfall in climate models and palaeoclimate observations over the last millennium

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  • Full or part time
    Dr AG Turner
    Dr D Fleitmann
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

Monsoons are vital to society, their summer rains providing the majority of water for agriculture, industry and food for billions of people in the tropics; thus variations in the timing, duration or intensity of the monsoon have clear impacts. We use global climate models to make projections of the future, yet we still do not know if these models represent the full range of possible monsoon variability, making these future projections uncertain. For example, palaeo-climate “proxy” observations from caves, lakes, ice cores, trees and historical accounts suggest extreme events such as “mega-droughts” lasting several years that have not been explored in models. Thus we can use extensive evidence from the past of the occurrence, amplitude and duration of mega-droughts to make judgments on how well models can simulate monsoon variability.

This project will use global climate model experiments designed to simulate the last millennium in comparison with a network of palaeo-climate proxy observations. The student will then look for connections between these events and other phenomena such as El Niño or volcanic eruptions. The project seeks to answer the following:

Do global climate models simulate the full range of variability for monsoons suggested by palaeo-climate proxy records over the last millennium?

Are regional linkages between different parts of the tropics in climate models consistent with correlations between different palaeo-climate observations? Are these relationships constant in time?

Can we better understand persistent monsoon droughts seen in proxy evidence by using climate models to look at related conditions elsewhere on the planet?

The project offers the unique opportunity for a student to learn to analyse, critically assess and perform experiments with global climate models, allied to learning skills in interpretation and manipulation of palaeo-climate proxies of rainfall and temperature from the last millennium.

The project is supervised by Andy Turner (University of Reading) and co-supervised by Dominik Fleitmann (University of Reading).

The full project description is available at:

A video is also available at

Funding Notes

Funding would be via the NERC SCENARIO Doctoral Training Partnership

To apply for this PhD project please visit

This project would be suitable for students with a degree in physics, maths or a closely related environmental or physical science, who is keen to develop a keen interest in climates of the past and future.

How good is research at University of Reading in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 75.68

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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