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NERC GW4+ DTP Projects 2020: (Changing Planet) The temperature of our planet – modelling and understanding 500-million years of climate change.

  • Full or part time
    Dr D Lunt
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, January 06, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Over the last 500 million years, Earth’s temperature has fluctuated considerably, from the extreme cold of the last ice age, 20,000 years ago, to the super-warmth of the mid Cretaceous, 100 million years ago. However, exactly how this temperature has evolved as a global mean is not well known at all, due in part to the sparsity of indicators of temperature preserved in the geological record, and partly to uncertainties in the calibration of these indicators. In this project, we will combine state-of-the-art climate modelling and geological data with novel statistical methods, to improve our understanding of the temperature history of our planet. The ultimate goal will be to include the student’s work in the Fossil Hall exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.We will aim to produce a global mean temperature history of the last 500 million years, using climate model simulations to interpolate and contextualise sparse geochemical indicators of temperature from the geological record. We will use the UK Met Office model, HadCM3, and a unique set of paleogeographic maps that cover these time periods and include information on topography and bathymetry, to simulate global and regional temperature under varying carbon dioxide concentrations. Statistical methods will be used to combine these model simulations with temperature estimates derived from oxygen isotopes from various geological archives. Taking into account uncertainties in calibration, the sparsity of the data, and uncertainties in the climate model simulations themselves, we will produce a temperature record with error bars that fully reflect our best understanding of how temperature has changed over this time period. Combined with estimates of carbon dioxide concentrations over time, this will also allow an estimation of how “climate sensitivity ” has varied over time – a key metric used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. Furthermore, model sensitivity studies will allow us to understand the mechanisms for the changes in temperature, for example the relative importance of CO2 versus plate tectonics versus changes in Earth’s orbit or the strength of the sun.

Funding Notes

This project would be ideally suited to someone with a strong quantitative background, familiar with climate science, and comfortable with computer programming. You should also be passionate about science communication, and ideally have an interest in Earth’s past climate history.

How good is research at University of Bristol in Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 46.45

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

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