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Solar energy input from the Earth’s magnetosphere to its atmosphere (CENTA2-PHYS7-WRIG)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 10, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The interaction between the Sun’s and the Earth’s plasma environments is very dynamic and one of societal and commercial importance. Following dynamic processes such as magnetic reconnection, a large proportion of the energy from this terawatt system is transferred from the outer magnetosphere inwards by magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) waves, which propagate along magnetic field lines and into the upper atmosphere (ionosphere; Fig. 1), where the energy is dissipated through Joule (frictional heating) and energetic particle precipitation (EPP). “Space Weather” hazards are now part of the Government’s National Risk Register since geomagnetic storms are known to affect human activities on the ground and in space.

Recently, it has become apparent that nonlinear effects in the upper atmosphere also influence tropospheric climate, including energetic particle precipitation (EPP, associated with MHD waves) effects on stratospheric ozone (e.g. Seppälä et al., 2009) and changes to the geoelectric circuit. By undertaking this study, the student will be able to gauge the impact of geomagnetic activity on the Earth’s environment.

The Radio and Space Plasma Physics (RSPP) group at the University of Leicester have unique UK access to a number of important data sets including ground magnetometers (through SuperMag), ionospheric radars (including EISCAT and the imminent EISCAT_3D and SuperDARN) and satellites (e.g. the JAXA Arase mission). This project will exploit these facilities to explore energy deposition in the upper atmosphere and its ultimate influence of the lower atmosphere.

A number of these instruments and their datasets will provide the magnetospheric and upper atmospheric context for events which are associated with energy deposition via EPP. The EPP modify the concentration of “odd” Nitrogen (NOx) species in the atmosphere which impact on the creation of stratospheric ozone and ultimately on tropospheric climate. By examining the energy spectrum of the down-going EPP using the Arase satellite and a ground-based multispectral auroral imager in conjunction with models for NOx creation the student will for the first time produce a realistic model for the impact of solar variability on NOx and ozone concentration.

Entry Requirements:

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.

Available for UK and EU applicants only.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility:

How to Apply:

Please follow refer to the How to Apply section at and use the Physics Apply button to submit your PhD application.

Upload your CENTA Studentship Form in the proposal section of the application form.

In the funding section of the application please indicate you wish to be considered for NERC CENTA Studentship.

Under the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisor and project title/project code you want to apply for.

Funding Notes

This project is one of a number of fully funded studentships available to the best UK and EU candidates available as part of the NERC DTP CENTA consortium.

For more details of the CENTA consortium please see the CENTA website: View Website.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility: View Website

The studentship includes a 3.5 year tuition fee waiver at UK/EU rates

An annual tax free stipend (For 2019/20 this is currently £15,009)

Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) of £8,000.


Chisham, G., et al., (2007) A decade of the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN): Scientific achievements, new techniques and future directions, Surv. Geophys., 28, 33–109, doi:10.1007/s10712- 007-9017-8.

Kivelson, M. G., and Russell, C. T. Eds., (1995), Introduction to Space Physics, Cambridge University Press.
Miyoshi, Y. et al (2017), Geospace exploration project: Arase (ERG), J. Phys.: Conf. Ser. 869 012095.

Rozanov, E. et al. (2005), Atmospheric response to NOy source due to energetic electron precipitation, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2005GL023041

Seppälä, A. et al. (2009), Geomagnetic activity and polar surface air temperature variability, JGR, 114, A10312, doi:10.1029/2008JA014029.

Tuttle, S. et al. (2014), Temporal and spatial evolution of auroral electron energy spectra in a region surrounding the magnetic zenith, J. Geophys. Res., doi: 10.1002/2013JA019627.

Zawedde, A. E. et al. (2018), The impact of energetic particle precipitation on mesospheric OH - Variability of the sources and the background atmosphere. J. Geophys. Res., 123, 5764-5789. doi: 10.1029/2017JA025038.

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