Application of a novel trajectory approach to improve understanding of the role of aerosols in the Arctic - Mathematics - PhD (Funded) Ref: 3002

About the award

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, in partnership with The Met Office is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in March 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Main supervisor: Dr Daniel Partridge (University of Exeter)
Co-supervisors:   Prof Jim Haywood (University of Exeter)
                                  Dr Andy Jones (UK Met Office)
                                  Dr Adrian Hill (UK Met Office)

Start date: This studentship is available from March 2018.

Project Description:
In this PhD studentship, we aim to reduce current uncertainties in estimates of future Arctic climate change by improving the understanding of atmospheric processes affecting aerosol sources and sinks during transport to the Arctic region.

Aerosols are important components of the climate system; however, the impact of aerosols on climate remains is highly uncertain due to the limited understanding of processes governing atmospheric aerosol sources and sinks. This is particularly true for the Arctic, a region where aerosols are believed to play a key role in controlling the radiative budget, yet global climate models (GCMs) describe aerosols poorly in this region. Increasing the current state-of-the-art understanding of how the Arctic environment will respond to a warming climate requires a more accurate representation of aerosols by GCMs. To achieve this, novel methods are required to highlight discrepancies compared to observations and concurrently isolate the structural deficiencies in the models associated with the aerosol life cycle during transport that results in the observed differences.

Primary Aim
In this college funded PhD studentship we aim to improve understanding of the role of atmospheric aerosol sources and sinks on the current representation of aerosols in GCMs. To reach this goal we will make use of a recently developed Lagrangian modelling framework for calculating air-mass trajectories from climate models. The AeroCom Aerosol GCM Trajectory Experiment ( is using this Lagrangian modelling framework to provide a detailed inter-comparison of the representation of aerosols within GCMs from numerous modelling centers worldwide. This PhD will use the results from this experiment to improve the representation of aerosol microphysical properties in GCMs.

Project Strategy
The project requires the development of software suite(s) which will be used to efficiently evaluate aerosols in GCMs within a Lagrangian trajectory framework. Critical issues regarding emission representation, transport patterns, free-troposphere-boundary layer mixing and sink processes in GCMs can then be analysed to assess the skill of the multiple GCMs participating in the AeroCom experiment. Evaluating models against observation data will allow us to address where, when and why models may underperform with respect to the different parameterisations used to describe aerosol-cloud interactions. Finally, these results will guide the development of the representation of aerosol-cloud interactions within the UK Met Office climate model, HadGem3-UKCA.

The research will be conducted in collaboration with the UK Met Office. The PhD project has the potential to produce key academic publications as well as real improvements in estimates of climate change. The project is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing on numerical modelling, computer programming, applied statistics, as well as weather and climate science.

• The development of a software suite for efficient data visualisation and data mining of the results generated from the AeroCom Aerosol GCM Trajectory Experiment. 
• Identify whether GCMs can reproduce observed flow patterns in the atmosphere, and hence the role of emissions, processes and timescales on aerosol properties.
• Compare how different models represent source-receptor relationships for simulated aerosol properties compared to observations.
• Quantify and compare the role of sink mechanisms (e.g. droplet activation, precipitation) for aerosols across the different GCMs.       

This PhD studentship will involve working with big climate datasets and climate models which necessitates a large programming element; therefore, experience working in a Linux environment is highly desirable. Candidates should have an interest in numerical modelling, and applying mathematics and statistics in weather and climate science; prior knowledge of climate modelling is not necessary.

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 fees are entitled to apply, but must note that the studentship will only cover part international fees, and no stipend.
The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3.5 years of full-time study to commence in January 2018 and is subject to confirmation of funding.  

Entry requirements:
Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents.

• CV
• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
• Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. If your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to quoting the studentship reference number.
• 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 8 February 2018. Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus or via teleconference in the following weeks.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process, please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.


Application deadline:8th February 2018
Number of awards:1
Value:£14,553 for 3.5 years
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Postgraduate Research Office