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NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship: Dynamics of the Antarctic Atmosphere – From the Surface to the Edge of Space

Project Description

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP). The GW4+ DTP consists of the Great Western Four alliance of the Universities of Bath, Bristol and Exeter and Cardiff University plus five prestigious Research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The partnership aims to provide a broad multi-disciplinary training, designed to produce tomorrow’s leaders in earth and environmental science.


Lead Supervisor: Professor Nicholas Mitchell, University of Bath, Centre for Space, Atmospheric & Oceanic Science, Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering
Co-Supervisor: Dr Tracy Moffat-Griffin, Deputy Science Leader, Ice & Climate, British Antarctic Survey


The mesosphere/lower-thermosphere (MLT) at heights of about 80 – 100 km is critical in the coupling of the atmosphere and space environment. MLT dynamics are dominated by planetary waves, tides and gravity waves. Physical processes there shape the ascending field of waves and tides, controlling the coupling of the atmosphere to near-Earth space. These processes are particularly important in the Antarctic where vertical coupling is strongest. The MLT responds to solar variability and may mediate this signal into terrestrial climate. However, the physical mechanisms involved remain poorly understood.

Here, we will use sophisticated radars, imagers and NASA satellites to answer fundamental questions about Antarctic MLT dynamics. We will investigate whether atmospheric tides raised by the Moon transmit the influence of dramatic sudden stratospheric warmings into near-Earth space, we will combine radar, imager and satellite data to determine the coupling of waves and tides and we will investigate how the Antarctic MLT responds to solar variability.


You will join a lively team of researchers at Bath and BAS. We will use exciting new data from meteor meteor radars located at Rothera in the Antarctic, on the isolated mountainous island of South Georgia and in Tierra del Fuego. The radars measure MLT winds by detecting the drifting of meteor trails carried by the flow at heights of 80-100 km – effectively the edge of space. We will also use optical imagers and observations from MLS on the NASA Aura satellite. We will:

1) We will determine the variability, fluxes and coupling of planetary waves, gravity waves and tides over Rothera, South Georgia and Tierra del Fuego and investigate their influence on the circulation.

2) We will determine the response of the lunar tide in the Antarctic MLT to sudden stratospheric warmings and investigate how this influences the near-Earth space environment.

3) We will exploit extended data sets to determine if and how the circulation of the Antarctic MLT responds to the 11-year cycle of solar variability.

There is considerable scope for the student to take the project in new and exciting directions. There will be strong international collaboration with groups in the USA and Europe.


Full training in essential research skills will be provided through Bath’s Doctoral College and the NERC GW4+ DTP. In addition, the student may attend the month-long European Research Course on Atmospheres held in Grenoble in France and the seven UK atmospheric science courses organised by the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. The student will present their work at national and international conferences and interact with staff from the Met Office and British Antarctic Survey.


Applicants must have or expect to receive a good degree in physics, mathematics, meteorology or engineering. No prior knowledge of atmospheric physics is necessary and suitable training will be provided.


Applicants should first contact Prof Nicholas Mitchell who will be happy to discuss the project in full (email: ).

Candidates should apply formally using the relevant University of Bath online application form:

When completing the form, please state in the ‘Finance’ section that you wish to be considered for NERC GW4+ DTP funding and quote the project title and lead supervisor’s name in the ‘Your research interests’ section. If you wish, you may apply for more than one project within the same application but you should submit a separate personal statement for each one.

More information on how to apply may be found here:

Enquiries relating to the application process should be directed to

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020.

Funding Notes

NERC GW4+ DTP funding is for 3.5 years and is open to UK and EU applicants who have been resident in the UK since September 2017.

A studentship will provide UK/EU tuition fees, maintenance in line with the UKRI Doctoral stipend rate (£15,009 per annum, 2019/20 rate) and a generous budget for research expenses and training.


A full reading list can be made available on request to interested applicants. A description of the meteor radars can be found here: Mitchell, N. J., Radar, meteor radar, Encyclopaedia of Atmospheric Sciences (Second Edition),, 2015.

How good is research at University of Bath in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 20.50

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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