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The spatial extent of warm and cool periods during the last two thousand years (OSBORNTU19SCI-AFFJ)

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Timothy Osborn
    Dr M Chapman
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


Networks of data from palaeoclimate archives across the globe now provide an unprecedented view of the Earth’s recent climate history – the context within which human-induced climate change sits. Yet this information needs very careful analysis: the data are not perfect representations of climate and their imperfections are not fully understood. You will evaluate the ability of the networks (such as tree-rings, ice and sediment cores and tropical corals) to represent the spatial patterns of past climate change and reconstruct the spatial extent of periods of warming and cooling that occurred over the last 2000 years.

Research outline

You will undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the quality of climate information recorded within networks of palaeoclimate records. A crucial focus will be on whether records that are geographically close show a similar sequence of climate variation: since climate varies coherently across large regions, we expect that reliable palaeoclimate series would show realistic coherence. You will assess how their coherence changes with timescale (from years to multiple decades), compare with climate model simulations, and identify those records with useful climatic information.

Climate reconstructions will focus on the geographical extent of warming and cooling over the whole time period and for different epochs. You will assess the extent of warmth during the Roman and Medieval periods in comparison with modern warmth, and the extent of cooling that follows volcanic eruptions.


You will gain transferable skills necessary to pursue a range of careers: scientific computing and data science, the ability to use and interpret computer model outputs, and communication at technical and scientific levels. Opportunities for tree-ring fieldwork are also possible though not essential.

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here:
The type of programme: PhD
The start date of the project: Oct 2019
The mode of study: Full-time
Acceptable first degree in a relevant subject area (Environmental Sciences, Physics, Maths, Statistics, Geography or a related discipline), an aptitude for research, numerate and a clear communicator. Minimum entry requirements is 2:1.

Funding Notes

This PhD studentship is jointly funded for three years by Faculty of Science and The Amar-Franses and Foster-Jenkins Trust. Applications are open to UK/EU applicants only and funding comprises home/EU tuition fees, an annual stipend of £14,777 and £1000 per annum to support research training.


i) PAGES 2k Consortium (2017) A global multiproxy database for temperature reconstructions of the Common Era. Scientific Data, 4, 170088.
ii) Osborn TJ, Briffa KR (2006) The spatial extent of 20th century warmth in the context of the last 1200 years. Science 311, 841-844.
iii) Anchukaitis et al. (2017) Last millennium Northern Hemisphere summer temperatures from tree rings: Part II: spatially resolved reconstructions. Quaternary Science Reviews 163, 1-22.
iv) Wang J, Yang B, Ljungqvist FC, Luterbacher J, Osborn TJ et al. (2017) Internal and external forcing of multidecadal Atlantic climate variability over the past 1,200 years. Nature Geoscience 10, 512-517.
v) Briffa KR, Melvin TM, Osborn TJ et al. (2013) Reassessing the evidence for tree-growth and inferred temperature change during the Common Era in Yamalia, northwest Siberia. Quaternary Science Reviews 72, 83-107.

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