Quantifying the Risk of European Extreme Windstorms and Precipitation Events Associated with Extratropical Cyclones – Mathematics PhD (Funded) Ref: 2982

About the award

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in September 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,553 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.  The student would be based in Mathematics in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.


Mathematics, Streatham Campus, Exeter

Academic Supervisors:
Main Supervisor - Dr Jennifer Catto, University of Exeter
Co-supervisor - Professor David Stephenson, University of Exeter
Met Office Supervisor – Dr Nick Dunstone

Project Description:
Extratropical cyclones are extremely important for the variability of weather over the UK and are often associated with extreme winds or rainfall, which are potentially very damaging. Because of the short record (~50 years) of reliable observations, quantifying this important source of natural hazard risk remains a challenging problem that requires new approaches.

The Met Office decadal prediction system (DePreSys3) has a large 40-member ensemble of hindcasts (retrospective forecasts covering 1960-present), which can be used as a large event set to evaluate the risk of extreme climate events. This enables us to assess the underlying risk in the current climate through much better sampling than the short historical record, and the model initialisation has the advantage of reducing model biases.  Preliminary work has shown that model analogues of the extreme observed wind events (such as the UK October 1987J storm) can be found in the ensemble hindcasts.

There is a strong relationship between extratropical cyclone behaviour and large-scale climate modes of variability, e.g. the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The DePreSys3 ensemble mean has been shown to be skilful in predicting the winter NAO up to one year in advance. By further studying the predictable large-scale atmospheric conditions we will gain further insight into the dynamical conditions favourable for the development of these extreme events.

The key questions to be addressed in this work are: 1) How can we more reliably quantify the risk of extreme wind and precipitation events associated with extratropical cyclones?, and 2) How is the variability of this risk related to the large scale modes of atmospheric variability (e.g., the NAO)?
The aims and outcomes of this project will be:
1.Identify extreme Northern European wind and precipitation events associated with extratropical cyclones in large the DePreSys3 hindcast ensemble and critically evaluate the fidelity of the model simulations with respect to observations and reanalysis data.
2.Calculate the risk of these events in the current climate for the UK and Northern Europe – information that could be further developed into a climate service for government and financial sectors.
3.Improve seasonal forecasts of extreme event risk by quantifying how the extratropical cyclone risk depends on NAO and other larger-scale modes of variability.

Extratropical cyclones will be identified in reanalysis data and the ensemble, along with their associated extreme wind and precipitation events. A critical evaluation of the model ensemble data will be performed using multiple observational datasets.  Novel statistical methods will be developed in the project to quantify the true risk of these extreme events, and how they relate to the NAO and to one-another. The project will greatly benefit from the strong links with the Met Office via co-supervisor Dr Nick Dunstone. His group has pioneered the UNSEEN (Unprecedented Simulation of Extremes with Ensembles) technique and used it to address the risk of extreme monthly UK winter rainfall as part of the UK government National Flood Resilience Review. This PhD project will extend this analysis by exploring the current risk of extreme windstorms and the results are likely to be of interest to government and industry contingency planners.
The student would be based within the Exeter Climate Systems group, which consists of over 20 academic staff, and over 50 post-doctoral researchers and PhD students and has strong links with the Met Office Hadley Centre, which is also located in Exeter. The student will also benefit from masters level courses across mathematics, statistics, physics and engineering, as well as the Researcher Development Programme that provides research skills training.
This project would be suited to students with a good degree in physics, mathematics, statistical science, atmospheric science, or another closely related physical or environmental science. Some experience in numerical/statistical modelling and computer programming is desirable. We seek an enthusiastic individual who is highly motivated about understanding the climate system and has the drive to carry out novel research.

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend.  For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £14,553 per year tax-free stipend.  Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend. 

The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3.5 years of full-time study to commence in September 2018.

Entry requirements:
You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in physics, mathematics, statistical science, atmospheric science, or another closely related physical or environmental. Some experience in numerical/ statistical modelling and computer programming is desirable. If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply/english/).


Application deadline:30th January 2018
Number of awards:1
Value:£14,553 for 3.5 years
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Postgraduate Research Officeemps-pgr-ad@exeter.ac.uk

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents.  Please note our preferred format is PDF, each file named with your surname and the name of the document, eg. “Smith – CV.pdf”, “Smith – Cover Letter.pdf”, “Smith – Transcript.pdf”. 
• CV [Maximum 2 Pages]
• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project). [Maximum 300 Words]
• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
• Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English
The closing date for applications is midnight on 30 January 2018.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus the week commencing 12 February 2018
If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email emps-pgr-ad@exeter.ac.uk or phone +44 (0)1392 722730.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.