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Linking impacts of climate change on snow and water resources

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, January 21, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Rising temperatures are having impacts on many natural environmental systems around the world. High latitude and high elevation areas of the earth are experiencing particularly rapid temperature increases, resulting in changes in vegetation, carbon cycling, and many other ecosystem functions. These regions also host most of the globe’s seasonal snow cover, which is uniquely sensitive to rising temperatures because it impacts how much snow falls and accumulates, and how quickly it melts (Musselman et al. 2017). Snow plays a critical role in the earth’s energy and water cycles (see Nature Climate Change focus section) and provides an important delay in water supply, to which many ecosystems, societies, and economies have adapted and depend. In fact, more than 2 billion people have the majority of their water supply derived from snowmelt.
The impact of rising temperatures on water resources that depend on snow is complex since temperature affects the amount of water stored temporally (from months to decades) at the earth surface in the form of snow and ice, and also the timing and rate of melt. However, the implications of this temperature impact on snowmelt for changes in water resources are poorly understood. This project will provide an important step forward for understanding the impacts of climate change on water resources, by fingerprinting the component of this impact that is due to changing snow dynamics in selected river basins around the world. The improved understanding of the impact of snow on water resources in these basins will then be used to examine a key question, namely are certain basins likely to be more resilient or sensitive than others to the effects of climate change on snow resources? This will be critical information for future planning and adaptation measures.
This project will provide close national and international collaboration, in addition to the interaction with the large and interdisciplinary water research group at the University of Birmingham. The student will be co-supervised by researchers at the University of Bristol (Dr Ross Woods) and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland (Prof Bettina Schaefli). This will provide an excellent opportunity to interact and learn from both the large water research group at Bristol, and the hydrology research group in Lausanne.
More information on water research at the University of Birmingham (UK) can be found here:
More information on water research at the University of Bristol (UK) can be found here:
More information on the water research at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) can be found here:
For any further questions, please contact: Dr Joshua Larsen -

Funding Notes

CENTA studentships are for 3.5 years and are funded by NERC. In addition to the full payment of their tuition fees, successful candidates will receive the following financial support:

Annual stipend, set at £14,777 for 2018/19
Research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000


Berghuijs, WR, Woods, RA & Hrachowitz, M (2014) A precipitation shift from snow towards rain leads to a decrease in streamflow' Nature Climate Change, vol. 4, pp. 583-586. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2246
Musselman, K.N., Clark, M.P., Liu, C., Ikeda, K., Rasmussen, R. (2017) Slower snowmelt in a warmer world. Nature Climate Change, 7, 214 – 219 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3225
Woods, RA. (2009) Analytical model of seasonal climate impacts on snow hydrology: Continuous snowpacks, Advances in Water Resources, vol. 32, no. 10, pp. 1465-1481. DOI: 10.1016/j.advwatres.2009.06.011
Nature Climate Change (no data) Snow in the climate systems. Available at: (Accessed 30 October 2018).

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