QUADRAT DTP: World cup in the Arctic? Sport adaptation to extreme heat in a warming world

   School of Natural and Built Environment

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  Dr D Mullan, Dr C Hambly  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This fully funded, 42-month PhD project is part of the QUADRAT Doctoral Training Partnership.

The global sports industry was valued at almost 500 billion U.S. Dollars in 2022, with the four most popular sports (soccer, cricket, field hockey, and tennis) each commanding an estimated fan base of over 1 billion people. Something these sports have in common is that they are all played outdoors, where players and spectators are exposed to the heat. Many of the biggest sporting tournaments and events are held during the hottest summer months across a range of global climates – including places in both hemispheres where extreme heat is common. Extreme heat can reduce the sporting performance of athletes, but also compromises their safety. Extreme heat also threatens the safety of spectators, particularly those travelling from cooler places where they are not acclimatised.

One of the biggest challenges outdoor sport now faces is climate change, with extreme heat events becoming more frequent and intense. Even in the most optimistic future scenario, twice as many megacities could become heat stressed, exposing over 350 million people to deadly heat. How then will sport adapt? We have already seen several examples in recent years. These range from simple interventions such as in-play drinks breaks to the design of air-conditioned stadia. More dramatically, we recently saw the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar moved from the traditional northern hemisphere summer to winter to escape the searing heat. Locations have also been shifted, with the Marathon event at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games moved from Tokyo to the cooler city of Sapporo over 800 km further north. How much further might these changes go as climate change intensifies? Could we have sporting tournaments played out during the nighttime hours? Could the format of the sport change completely from outdoors to indoors? As the project title suggests, could we really have a World Cup in the Arctic? These are the kind of speculative questions this project will try to answer. 

The project aim is to examine and visualise how a selection of the world's most popular outdoor sports could adapt to extreme heat during the 21st century under different warming scenarios. The associated research objectives are as follows:  

  1. To determine 'sub-optimal' and 'dangerous' climatic thresholds for athletes competing in sports, and spectators (at rest) based on controlled performance trials, expert focus groups, and data mining. 
  2. To examine the spatial and temporal exceedance of the climatic thresholds established in objective 1 under baseline conditions and future scenarios of extreme heat based on observed and modelled climate data.  
  3. To produce imagined visualisations and design scenarios depicting major sporting tournaments in a warming world based on codesign methods and use of GIS StoryMaps. 

In addition to the range of transferable skills a QUADRAT DTP project provides, this project will ensure the student will graduate a versatile and well-rounded researcher with expertise and skills applicable to both the physical and social sciences. 

Candidate Background:

A degree in a physical sciences subject with relevance to climate and/or sport (e.g. biology, environmental science, geography, meteorology, sports science); practical experience in using computer models and/or analysing quantitative data. It would also be desirable to have an undergraduate dissertation relating to climate science and/or sports science; A Master’s degree; experience in using programming languages, e.g. Python, R. 

Candidates should have, or expect to achieve, a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered providing they have a Distinction at Masters level.

We encourage applications from all backgrounds and communities, and are committed to having a diverse, inclusive team.

Informal enquiries are encouraged, please contact Dr Donal Mullan for further information.



  • Please visit this page for full application information: How to Apply- QUADRAT
  • Please send your completed application form, along with academic transcripts to [Email Address Removed]
  • Please ensure that two written references from your referees are submitted. It is your responsibility to ensure these are provided, as we will not request references on your behalf.
  • Unfortunately, due to workload constraints, we cannot consider incomplete applications.
  • CV's submitted directly through a FindAPhD enquiry WILL NOT be considered.
  • If you require any additional assistance in submitting your application or have any queries about the application process, please don't hesitate to contact us at [Email Address Removed] 

Architecture, Building & Planning (3) Biological Sciences (4) Environmental Sciences (13) Geography (17) Geology (18) Mathematics (25)

Funding Notes

This opportunity is open to UK and International students (The proportion of international students appointed through the QUADRAT DTP is capped at 30% by UKRI NERC).
Funding covers:
• A monthly stipend for accommodation and living costs, based on UKRI rates (£18,622 for the 23/24 academic year. Stipend rates for the 24/25 academic year have not been set yet)
• Tuition Fees
• Research and training costs
QUADRAT DTP does not provide funding to cover visa and associated healthcare surcharges for international students.


Brocherie, F., Girard, O., Millet, G.P. (2015) Emerging environmental and weather challenges in outdoor sports. Climate 3 (3), 492-521.
Orr, M., Inoue, Y., Seymour, R., Dingle, G. (2021) Impacts of climate change on organized sport: a scoping review. WIRES Climate Change 13, e760.
Smith, K.R., Woodward, A., Lemke, B., Otto, M., Chang C.J., Mance, A.A., Balmes, J., Kjellstrom, T. (2016) The last summer Olympics? Climate change, health, and work outdoors. The Lancet 388, 642-644.
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