The Earth experiences ‘space weather’ that impacts the planetary environment in a variety of ways. These impacts are a recognised environmental hazard, as detailed in the UK National Risk Register. A major impact arises due to the deposition of energy in the atmosphere by Joule heating whereby charged particles, under electromagnetic forcing from the solar wind and magnetospheric dynamics, collide with the neutral constituents of the atmosphere. This can lead to atmospheric uplift (which affects satellite drag, position control and lifetime), excitation of thermospheric winds (which can couple to the lower atmosphere, affecting weather and climate) and triggering of atmospheric gravity waves (which can transport energy and momentum throughout different layers of the atmosphere and across the globe).
This project utilises a range of international space physics facilities to study the characteristics, variability, dynamics, and drivers of Joule heating. In particular, it will employ ionospheric plasma measurements and computational models to determine the importance of ionospheric electric fields in our efforts to model Joule heating. The ultimate goal of the project is to produce a state-of-the-art model to forecast the Joule heating response to changes in the solar wind and geomagnetic activity.
As a PhD student in Lancaster’s “Space and Planetary Physics” (SPP) group you will conduct cutting-edge research in the company of world-leading scientists. You will develop and exploit skills in computer-based data analysis and computational modelling techniques, and deliver oral presentations and written accounts of your work. To this end you will receive a programme of training in the scientific and technical background required to conduct your research, and in the written and oral presentation skills required to disseminate your results to the national and international scientific community. You will also benefit from an internship at the Met Office, which performs operational space weather forecasts for the UK.
Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in a subject such as Physics or Geophysics.