Investigation into the importance of aerosols from blowing snow for accurate predictions of Arctic climate change, NERC GW4, PhD in Mathematics studentship Ref: 3341

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 five Research Organisation partners:  British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, 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

For eligible successful applicants, the studentships comprises:

  • An index-linked stipend for 3.5 years (currently £14,777 p.a. for 2018/19);
  • Payment of university tuition fees;
  • A research budget of £11,000 for an international conference, lab, field and research expenses;
  • A training budget of £4,000 for specialist training courses and expenses.

Up to 30 fully-funded studentships will be available across the partnership.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award but no stipend.  Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.

Project details

Reducing current uncertainties associated with model estimates of future climate is hampered by our understanding of the impact aerosol particles have on the radiative budget via their interactions with clouds (Carslaw et al., 2013). 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. This “Arctic amplification” is not fully understood, but it likely relates to the complex feedbacks surrounding sea ice, clouds and aerosols.
Sea salt aerosols (SSA) play an important role in cloud formation and are generated both directly from the ocean into the atmosphere by bursting bubbles; blowing snow above sea ice (Fig. 2B) and frost flowers (Fig. 2B), (Huang and Jaeglé, 2017). It is important to constrain the relative contribution of SSA from the sea ice to the Arctic in climate models as this is a dominant air-mass transport pathway (Fig. 1).   

Project Aims and Methods

A unique set of campaign measurements of blowing snow from the N-ICE 2015 ice drift expedition have been used by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) to develop a parameterisation describing the production of SSA from the sea ice (BAS, paper in preparation). This will be implemented in UKESM1: a state-of-the-art Earth system model (ESM) developed by the Met Office and used to investigate the importance of this aerosol source for Arctic aerosol-cloud-climate interactions. 
A novel Lagrangian trajectory framework for evaluating GCMs has been developed (Fig 1). 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., 2013) as a metric for stringent evaluation of aerosol processes in climate models.
The student will apply this new parameterisation and Lagrangian evaluation strategy to evaluate and improve understanding of the processes underpinning simulation of snow blowing aerosols and their impact on climate by:
1.) Implementation of parameterisation to describe emission of SSA from blowing snow into UKESM1.
2.) Evaluation of simulated Arctic aerosol properties before/after (1) against measurements.
3.) Investigation of the impact of aerosols originating from blowing snow on the climate system by applying a Lagrangian trajectory analysis to UKESM1.
4.) Investigation of interactions between SSA, clouds and sea ice extent on model estimates of future climate change.
We envisage a high degree of flexibility for the student to lead the direction of investigation in (4). 


In addition to the DTP, the student will receive:
1.) Training courses on running the UKESM1 (UK Met Office).
2.) Training on measurements of blowing snow from the British Antarctic Survey. 
3.) Training on observations from Arctic Zeppelin station and Oden Icebreaker (ACES, Stockholm Uni.). 
4.) Opportunity to attend specialised Arctic workshops (ESTICC/CRAICC). 
5.) Training on using Hysplit/NAME atmospheric trajectory models
6.) Training on using CIS data analysis software: (University of Oxford).
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.

CASE or Collaborative Partner 

With the Met Office as a CASE partner the student will be provided with unparalleled support in using the Earth System Model (UKESM1) used in this project in a world-renowned climate modelling centre. This will be achieved through direct interaction with the leader of the scientific development and evaluation of UKESM1 acting as CASE supervisor at the Met Office. Furthermore, the student will be provided with access to the dynamic aerosol research groups of Haywood/Partridge through weekly meetings at both Exeter University and the Met Office.

Figure 1: Average relative frequency of occurrence of air mass trajectories arriving at the Zeppelin Arctic measurement station [2006-2009]. Regions of high "potential" source regions are identified over the Arctic ice pack. Partridge et al., 2018, in-prep.


Figure 2: (A) NASA Terra satellite image of sea ice, ocean and clouds ( (B) Sources of sea salt aerosol from ice: Blowing snow (left) and frost flower formation over sea ice (right) (Google images)

References / Background reading list

  • Carslaw, K.S., et al.: 2013. Large contribution of natural aerosols to uncertainty in indirect forcing, Nature.
  • Huang, J. and Jaeglé, L.:2017. Wintertime enhancements of sea salt aerosol in polar regions consistent with a sea ice source from blowing snow, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 3699-3712.
  • N-ICE2015:
  • 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.

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.

Candidate Requirements
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.

All applicants would need to meet our English language requirements by the start of the  project


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
  • 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.
  • Two References (applicants are recommended to have a third academic referee, if the two academic referees are within the same department/school).

Reference information
You will be asked to name two referees as part of the application process.  It is your responsibility to ensure that your two referees email their references to, as we will not make requests for references directly; you must arrange for them to be submitted by 7 January 2019

References should be submitted to us directly in the form of a letter. Referees must email their references to us from their institutional email accounts. We cannot accept references from personal/private email accounts, unless it is a scanned document on institutional headed paper and signed by the referee.

All application documents must be submitted in English. Certified translated copies of academic qualifications must also be provided.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 7 January 2019.  Interviews will be held between 4 and 15 February 2019.

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

Data Sharing
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.


Application deadline:7th January 2019
Value:£14,777 per annum for 2018-19
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Enquiries