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Improving the usefulness of tropical cyclone forecasts for early humanitarian action

   Department of Meteorology

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  Dr K Hodges, Dr Rebecca Emerton  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Tropical cyclones are one of the most powerful and destructive weather systems on Earth. Every year, around 80 tropical cyclones form around the globe, and they can have devastating impacts if they reach land - bringing strong winds, and floods from torrential rain, river flooding and storm surge. Coastal regions with high population densities are particularly vulnerable to such storms. 

Numerical weather prediction models run by forecasting centres around the world, provide various forecast products (both deterministic and probabilistic) indicating the predicted path and strength of tropical cyclones. The earlier we can predict a natural hazard such as a tropical cyclone, the earlier we can take action. It’s typical for humanitarian aid to reach those in need only after a disaster has unfolded, but research and initiatives are helping to change this and take action before disaster strikes, mitigating the impacts and saving lives.

Currently, major preparations for tropical cyclones are only deployed based on forecasts about 36 hours ahead, because forecasts earlier than this have high uncertainties about landfall location. However, there may be the potential to use the forecasts even earlier, with an improved understanding of how far in advance we can usefully predict a tropical cyclone’s genesis, landfall, and hazards including wind, rainfall and flooding. In order to increase the understanding and uptake of these forecasts by the humanitarian community, it is important to understand the forecast accuracy. A thorough understanding of a model’s abilities and limitations is also key for driving future improvements in the forecasts.

This project aims to answer the following science questions:

How far in advance are forecast models able to identify tropical cyclone genesis, and how often do we get ‘false alarms’ or missed events?

-   How far in advance can the affected region, and each of the three cyclone-related hazards, be predicted, both before and after cyclogenesis?

-   How do predictability and forecast accuracy vary around the world, and how are they affected by climate variability, including for example the El Nino Southern Oscillation and Madden-Julien Oscillation?

-   How can the usability of tropical cyclone forecasts, for early humanitarian decision-making, be improved?

The research undertaken through this project will provide the most in-depth study of tropical cyclone hazard predictability covering the global scale, increasing our understanding of forecast models’ ability to predict tropical cyclone genesis, movement and hazards.

To discuss this PhD opportunity informally please contact Dr Kevin Hodges ([Email Address Removed]).

Eligibility requirements:- Applicants should hold, or be predicted, a strong undergraduate degree (2:i UK honours degree or equivalent), or Masters (merit or distinction level), in a physical or mathematical science.)

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