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Understanding how waves in the tropical atmosphere trigger extreme weather (MATTHEWSAU18SF)

Project Description

Scientific background
Extreme weather in the tropics, particularly in the form of heavy rainfall and strong winds, can affect the livelihoods of the local population through flooding, landslides and impacts on agriculture and local infrastructure. Extreme weather in the tropics is controlled to a large part by waves in the tropical atmosphere (Figure 1). These waves are the response of the tropical atmosphere to fluctuations in the large-scale tropical circulation and rainfall patterns; effectively the natural or normal modes of the tropical atmosphere, rather like standing waves or harmonics are the normal modes of a guitar string. So-called “convectively-coupled equatorial waves” are one example that combine tropical atmospheric waves with tropical atmospheric convection (i.e. thunderstorms). These tropical waves are predictable up to a few days ahead, and are one of the few sources of predictability in the tropical atmosphere. Although the broad features of these tropical waves are known, their impact on extreme weather is not; this represents a major gap in our understanding of tropical weather.

Research methodology
You determine the effect of tropical waves on extreme weather in the tropics. Initially, this will involve analysis of state-of-the-art satellite data sets that measure rainfall every 3 hours across the whole tropics. You will then conduct sets of experiments with an atmospheric climate model to determine what factors generate and influence these tropical waves.

You will join an active research group at UEA in tropical meteorology and climate. You will be trained in meteorological and climate theory, and in the theoretical and practical aspects of meteorological analysis of very large data sets, and computer modelling of weather and climate. You will have the opportunity to present your work at national and international conferences. There may also be an opportunity to take part in the international Equatorial Line Observations field campaign in Sumatra and Borneo in 2018/19, which is focussed on understanding the mechanisms of tropical waves.

Person specification
We seek an enthusiastic, pro-active student with strong scientific interests and self-motivation. You will have a degree in physics, mathematics, meteorology, oceanography or environmental science with good numerical ability.

More information
For more information on the supervisor for this project, please visit:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: October 2018
Mode of study: Full-time
Application deadline: 31 May 2018, please note applications are processed as soon as they are received and the project may be filled before the closing date, so early application is encouraged.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at View Website.

A bench fee is also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. The amount charged annually will vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.


(i) Baranowski DB, Flatau MK, Flatau PJ, Matthews AJ, 2016: Impact of atmospheric convectively-coupled Kelvin waves on upper ocean variability. J. Geophys. Res., 121, 2045-2059.

(ii) Joshi M, Stringer M, van der Wiel K, O'Callaghan A, Blackburn M, Fueglistaler S, 2014: IGCM4: A fast, parallel and flexible intermediate climate model. Geosci. Model Develop. Disc., 7, 5517-5545.

(iii) Matthews AJ, Pickup G, Peatman SC, Clews P, Martin J, 2013: The effect of the Madden-Julian Oscillation on station rainfall and river level in the Fly River system, Papua New Guinea. J. Geophys. Res., 118, 10926-10935.

(iv) Wheeler M, Weickmann KM, 2001: Real-time monitoring and prediction of modes of coherent synoptic to intraseasonal tropical variability. Mon. Weath. Rev., 129, 2677-2694.

(v) Yang GY, Hoskins BJ, Slingo JM, 2007: Convectively coupled equatorial waves. Part I: Horizontal and vertical structures. J. Atmos. Sci., 64, 3406-3423.

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