Investigation into the importance of marine aerosol sources for accurate predictions of Arctic climate change. Mathematics NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship Ref: 3128

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

The studentships 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: Dr Daniel Partridge (Mathematics, University of Exeter)
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Jim Haywood (Mathematics, University of Exeter)
Co-Supervisor:  Prof. Colin Jones (NCAS/Uni Leeds: Head of Earth-system Science and Model Development for UKESM1 [UK Met Office ESM])

Location:  Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project description:
Reducing current uncertainties associated with model estimates of climate change sensitivity to greenhouse gas emissions is hampered by our understanding of the impact aerosol particles have on the radiative budget via their interactions with clouds. The Arctic environment is particularly sensitive to perturbations of the radiative budget. During the last century the temperature increase in the Arctic has been observed to be twice the global average. The reason for this “Arctic amplification” is not fully understood, but it likely relates to the complex atmospheric feedbacks surrounding clouds and aerosols; however, sadly the Arctic region is where climate models describe aerosols worst. Aerosol sources reach the polar regions through long-range transport (Fig 1) which is poorly constrained in present-day global climate models (GCMs) (Sand et al., 2017), Fig 2. Increasing current understanding of how the Arctic will respond to a warming climate requires a more accurate representation of aerosols by GCMs. 

Figure1 Figure 2

Figure 1 (left): Figure 2 (right):
View from the Zeppelin station near Ny Ålesund on Svalbard, Norway, under clear conditions a) 26th April 2006 and b) 2nd May 2006, example of an aerosol source event, when smoke from forest fires burning in Eastern Europe was transported to the station, (Image courtesy of Stockholm University). Relative source contribution of aerosol particle concentration: N(Dp=250:630nm) cm-3 [2006-2009] to Zeppelin measurement station, Svalbard. (a) ERA-Interim reanalysis wind field calculated trajectories; Zeppelin station measured aerosol observations (b) Global climate model HadGEM3-UKCA wind field calculated trajectories + simulated aerosol concentration. 
Partridge et al., 2018, On the predictability of aerosol sources in GCMs to the Arctic, in preparation.

Project Aims and Methods:
A novel Lagrangian trajectory framework for evaluating GCMs has been developed (Fig 2). This provides a step-change in our ability to confront climate models with aerosol observations by allowing us to use aerosol source-receptor relationships from observations (Tunved et al., 2006; 2010; 2013) as a metric for stringent evaluation of aerosol process(s) in climate models for the first time. UKESM1 is a state-of-the-art Earth system model (ESM) developed by the Met Office for climate process research. This ESM is unique in using its ocean biogeochemistry module to interactively simulate the emission of marine organic aerosols, an important contributor to Arctic aerosols, hence climate (Carslaw et al., 2013).  The student will apply Lagrangian evaluation methods to UKESM1; thereby, combining techniques never brought together in such a manner before to evaluate and improve understanding of the processes underpinning simulation of Arctic aerosols and their impact on climate by:
1.) Improving understanding of the physical/biological systems that produce/transport aerosols to the Arctic.
2.) Identifying the susceptibility of these aerosol sources to modification due to climate change.
3.) Quantifying the importance of marine biogeochemistry for Arctic cloud properties.
4.) Investigating the impacts of model improvements on Arctic climate and sea-ice decline.

The project is inter-disciplinary in nature. It would suit a numerate scientist passionate to understand the physical climate system using numerical modelling and observations. The project involves working with climate models, therefore, experience in programming is preferred but not essential. Backgrounds such as physics/mathematics/environmental science/computer science would all be acceptable.

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 (Prof. Colin Jones) who will provide unparalleled UKESM1 support in a world-renowned climate modelling centre as the Head of Earth-system Science and Model development for the UK Met Office.

In addition to the DTP, the student will receive:
1) Training courses on running the UKESM1 (by the Met Office)
3) Opportunity to attend specialised Arctic workshops (ESTICC/CRAICC).
4) Training on using Hysplit/NAME atmospheric trajectory models.
5) Training on using CIS data analysis software: (University of Oxford).
6) Training on observations from Arctic (Stockholm University).
On the job training at the Met Office in supercomputing. The candidate will be further supported by Haywood/Partridge established group of PhD/PDRAs working with the supervisors. International conferences (e.g. EGU, Vienna) and international workshops are expected to be attended.

Carslaw, K.S., et al.: 2013. Large contribution of natural aerosols to uncertainty in indirect forcing, Nature volume 503, pages 67–71, doi:10.1038/nature12674.
Sand, M., et al.: 2017. Aerosols at the poles: an AeroCom Phase II multi-model evaluation, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 12197-12218.
Tunved, P., et al.: 2006. High natural aerosol loading over boreal forests. Science. 14;312(5771):261-263.
Tunved, P., Partridge, D. G., and Korhonen, H.: 2010. New trajectory-driven aerosol and chemical process model Chemical and Aerosol Lagrangian Model (CALM), Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 10161-10185.
Tunved, P., Ström, J., and Krejci, R.: 2013. Arctic aerosol life cycle: linking aerosol size distributions observed between 2000 and 2010 with air mass transport and precipitation at Zeppelin station, Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 3643-3660.
Partridge et al., 2018, On the predictability of aerosol sources in GCMs to the Arctic, in preparation.

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

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

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 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.