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ONE Planet DTP - Causes of heavy precipitation in Europe (OP20286)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 31, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Extreme rainfall events cause substantial damage to infrastructure and endanger people, while lack of rainfall affects agriculture and can deplete water resources. This project focuses on how often heavy rainfall occurs, what weather patterns cause it, and where the moisture comes from. The student will also analyse if any of these factors have changed in the past decades, and how much they vary from year to year and decade to decade.

Winter rainfall is usually associated with large-scale weather patterns, which are more amenable to analysis with present data and climate modelling tools. The student will analyse events at timescales from extreme seasonal rainfall (leading to saturated ground) to extreme rainfall on daily scales, linking these to circulation states and how their impact has changed as the atmosphere has warmed, e.g. by looking for circulation patterns in the past that resemble recent events (so-called analogue methods). The student will analyse to what extent so-called atmospheric rivers (see image; shows water sources for Storm Desmond flooding; see also (Lavers et al., ERL doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034010) are a useful paradigm to describe causes of extreme rainfall. Analogue methods based on events conditioned on the same origin of moisture or the same circulation pattern will determine if events involving similar moisture transport already generate more intense rainfall in a warming, moistening atmosphere. The student may also analyse difference in circulation pattern and origin of moisture between particularly wet and particularly dry seasons, and analyse how climate models project that extreme rainfall events will change in the future.

Collaboration with the wider community: e.g. Met Office colleagues who attribute extreme weather (e.g. Prof Peter Stott), and Ruud van der Ent (Uni. Delft, Netherlands) who has developed moisture tracking methods, will ensure that the student is well embedded in topical approaches. The student will be trained in quantitative analysis; climate change causes and predictions, and the hydrological consequences of extreme weather.

Funding Notes

A degree in Meteorology, Geophysics, Physics, Mathematics, Engineering or a related field with quantitative analysis skills; some programming experience.


This project is part of the ONE Planet DTP. Find out more here:

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