UNlocking aeRosol cloud interActions using effusive Volcanic Eruptions at Low altitude (UNRAVEL). Mathematics NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship Ref: 3127

About the award

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP).  The GW4+ DTP consists of the Great Western Four alliance of the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus six Research Organisation partners:  British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Met Office, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory.  The partnership aims to provide a broad training in earth and environmental sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in earth and environmental science. For further details about the programme please see http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/

The Studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit and will commence in September 2018.  For eligible students the award will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum (2017/2018), research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Main Supervisor:  Prof Jim Haywood (Mathematics, University of Exeter)
Co-Supervisor: Dr Dan Partridge (Mathematics, University of Exeter)
Co-Supervisor (CASE):  Dr Andy Jones: (Met Office Hadley Centre)

Location: Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project description:
In addition to greenhouse gases, human emit significant quantities of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere forming sulphate aerosols which exert a non-negligible cooling of climate that acts to counterbalance the warming of climate from increased concentrations of greenhouse gases. This cooling is thought to be dominated by the impact of aerosols on the reflectance and lifetime of clouds. Despite decades of research, reducing uncertainties in aerosol-climate impacts has proved intractable owing largely to the lack of suitable robust observations.

However, in 2014-2015 the large fissure volcanic eruption at Holuhraun in Iceland created a massive aerosol plume that is unprecedented in the satellite-era observational record. The effusive eruption emitted sulphur dioxide at a rate of up to 1/3 of the total global emissions from anthropogenic sources effectively turning Iceland from a pristine region into a continental scale pollution source; an ideal natural laboratory with which to confront global climate models.


Image 1 (left): Image 2 (right):
The huge lava field at the eruption site near Holuhraun reached 70km2 and was emitting SO2 at 1/3 of the global emission rate. The change in the cloud effective radius is clearly observable in satellite images (such as the MODIS sensor) and is statistically significant at 95%, but the change in the liquid water path is negligible (from Malavelle et al., Nature, 2017).

Project Aims and Methods:
UNRAVEL will deliver a step change in our understanding of aerosol-cloud-interactions thus reducing the associated uncertainty in aerosol-climate interactions, leading to more robust climate simulations for future climate scenarios.

The three main research avenues focussing on the Holuhraun eruption are anticipated to be:-

Development of observational metrics: Use of satellite and surface based data to create a unique benchmark dataset and will be used to constrain gas emissions, aerosol, cloud and precipitation properties.
Global modelling. We propose running two global climate models with radically different aerosol-cloud-interaction sensitivities (HadGEM3 and ECHAM6-HAM) in climate model configuration in nudged mode so that the meteorological conditions closely resemble those of the observation period. The gases, aerosol and cloud properties at better than daily timescales will be evaluated against the observational metrics. Improved parameterisations will be developed to provide rigorous matches against the observations for both low and high sensitivity models. 
Multi-model ensembles. A multi-model (AEROCOM) intercomparison has been initiated where international modelling groups will perform simulations with input recommended from the initial study for Holuhraun based on the observational and modelling constraints. By appropriately weighting results from the AEROCOM models based on their skill, we will provide new estimates of climate sensitivity.

A numerate scientist with a keen interest in the physical climate would be ideal. Backgrounds such as physics/mathematics/environmental science/computer science would all be acceptable. A knowledge of statistical methods, and programming skills would be preferred but not essential.

CASE Award description:
This project may be funded via a CASE award with the Met Office, depending on whether the quota for Sept 2018 is already exhausted. If a CASE award is not forthcoming, the student will still be assigned a Met Office supervisor (Dr Andy Jones) who will provide unprecedented levels of support in a world-renowned climate modelling centre.

In addition to the standard DTP training, the student will receive:-
a) Training courses on running the HadGEM climate model (provided by the Met Office)
b) Training on running the ECHAM climate model
c) Training on running the SOCRATES radiative transfer code
d) On the job training at the Met Office in supercomputing, PYTHON, ROSE and MASS data storage. The candidate will be further supported by an established group of Phd students and PDRAs working with the supervisors.

International conferences (e.g. EGU, Vienna; AGU; San Francisco) and international workshops are expected to be attended.

Albrecht, B. A. Aerosols, cloud microphysics, and fractional cloudiness. Science, 245, 1989.
Gettelman, A., et al. Icelandic volcanic emissions and climate. Nat. Geosci. 8, 243, 2015.
McCoy, D. T. & Hartmann, D. L. Observations of a substantial cloud-aerosol indirect effect during the 2014–2015 Bárðarbunga-Veiðivötn fissure eruption in Iceland. GRL, 42, 10409–10414, 2015.
Ghan, S. et al. Challenges in constraining anthropogenic aerosol effects on cloud radiative forcing using present-day spatiotemporal variability. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 113, 5804–5811, 2016.
Malavelle, F. F. et al., Strong constraints on aerosol–cloud interactions from volcanic eruptions, Nature, 546, 2017.
Twomey, S. The influence of pollution on the shortwave albedo of clouds. JAS 34, 1977.

Entry requirements:   
Applicants should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK.   Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have Master’s degree.  Applicants with a minimum of Upper Second Class degree and significant relevant non-academic experience are encouraged to apply.

All applicants would need to meet our English language requirements by the start of the  project http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply/english/.

Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.


Application deadline:8th May 2018
Value:£14,553 per annum for 2017-18
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Enquiriespgrenquiries@exeter.ac.uk

How to apply

To apply for this funded studentship, please click and follow the 'Apply Now' button on this webpage.

During 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
•       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.
•       If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current
        proficiency in English.
You will be asked to name 2 referees as part of the application process however we will not contact these people until the shortlisting stage. Your referees should not be from the prospective supervisory team.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 8th May 2018.  Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter in the week commencing 21st May.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email pgrenquiries@exeter.ac.uk. Project-specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:
• the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
• administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.
Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.