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From stratosphere to ice cores - The journey of a climate proxy (JOSHIMU19SCI-AFFJ)

Project Description


Quantifying changes in solar activity over the past 1000 years is an important part of understanding long-term changes in climate, as well as placing man-made climate change into a wider context. Beryllium isotope concentrations in ice cores are a commonly used proxy for such changes since they are produced at heights of 20-40 km in the Earth’s stratosphere by cosmic rays: during episodes of lower solar activity, an increase in cosmic rays results in increased Beryllium isotope production, which is recorded in ice cores. An example of such a period is the so-called Maunder minimum in the 1600s.

It is therefore extremely important to understand the effect of the stratosphere on Beryllium transport in order to better quantify long-term changes in solar activity. However, a complication arises since the stratospheric circulation responds to both solar and volcanic activity and even to the strength of the circulation in the Atlantic Ocean. It is quite likely that the Maunder minimum period contained all of these complicating factors

You will quantify the roles of solar activity, volcanoes and Atlantic ocean variability on changing Beryllium transport in the stratosphere and troposphere using a hierarchy of climate models of varying complexity. The results will help us to better understand climate change over the past 1000 years. The project will be conducted jointly with collaborators at the University of Oxford.


You will gain transferable skills necessary to pursue a range of careers related to science. You will be trained in the ability to use and rigorously analyse computer model outputs. You will have the opportunity to lead or contribute to writing journal articles, and participate in scientific conferences.

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here:
The type of programme: PhD
The start date of the project: Oct 2019
The mode of study: Full-time
Acceptable first degree in a relevant subject area (Environmental Sciences, Physics, Maths or a related discipline), an aptitude for research, numerate and a clear communicator. Minimum entry requirements is 2:1.

Funding Notes

This PhD studentship is jointly funded for three years by Faculty of Science and The Amar-Franses and Foster-Jenkins Trust. Applications are open to UK/EU applicants only and funding comprises home/EU tuition fees, an annual stipend of £14,777 and £1000 per annum to support research training.


Gray LJ et al. (2010) Solar influences on climate, Rev. Geophys., 48. doi:10.1029/2009RG000282.

Heikkilä U and Smith AM (2012) Influence of model resolution on the atmospheric transport of 10Be , Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 10601-10612. doi:10.5194/acp-12-10601-2012.

Field CV et al (2006) Modeling production and climate-related impacts on 10Be concentration in ice cores, J. Geophys. Res., 111. doi:10.1029/2005JD006410.

O’ Callaghan A, Joshi M, Stevens D, Mitchell D (2014) The Effects of Different Sudden Stratospheric Warming Type on the Ocean, Geophys. Res. Lett., 41. doi:10.1002/2014GL062179

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