University of Exeter funding: NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship

Will ship emitted black carbon drive warming in the Arctic and North Atlantic? PhD in Geography (NERC GW4 + DTP) Ref: 3675

About the award


Lead Supervisor 

Dr Jo Browse, Department of Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

Additional Supervisors 

Dr Mingxi Yang, Plymouth Marine Laboratory 

Dr Katy Sheen, Department of Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

Location: University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP).  The GW4+ DTP consists of the GW4 Alliance of research-intensive universities: the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus five unique and prestigious Research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory.  The partnership aims to provide a broad training in the Earth, Environmental and Life sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in scientific research, business, technology and policy-making. For further details about the programme please see

For eligible successful applicants, the studentships comprises:

  • A stipend for 3.5 years (currently £15,009 p.a. for 2019/20) in line with UK Research and Innovation rates
  • Payment of university tuition fees;
  • A research budget of £11,000 for an international conference, lab, field and research expenses;
  • A training budget of £3,250 for specialist training courses and expenses.
  • Travel and accomodation is covered for all compulsory DTP cohort events
  • No course fees for courses run by the DTP

We are currently advertising projects for a total of 10 studentships at the University of Exeter


Students who are resident in EU countries are eligible for the full award on the same basis as UK residents.  Applicants resident outside of the EU (classed as International for tuition fee purposes) are not eligible for DTP funding. Residency rules are complex and if you have not been resident in the UK or EU for the 3 years prior to the start of the studentship, please apply and we will check eligibility upon shortlisting.

Project Background

The Arctic is currently warming at rate 3 times the global average. In response to the rapid ice-loss in the Arctic, ship traffic has drastically increased. Shipping produces ~2% of anthropogenic black carbon (BC) emissions (Lack et al. 2009), as well as gaseous pollutants, including 5-10% of anthropogenic SO2 (Eyring et al. 2005; Z. Klimont, Smith, and Cofala 2013). Currently, shipping emissions are estimated to have an overall cooling effect driven by SO2 derived sulphate aerosol (Berntsen and Fuglestvedt 2008; Unger et al. 2010). However, with the expectation of significant SO2 reductions as a result of new international regulations in 2020, the highly light absorbing BC from shipping (which warms the atmosphere and will likely increase [Fig 1]) is predicted to become a more important climate driver, particularly within the Arctic (Corbett et al. 2010). BC from ships (emitted locally and transported from the mid-latitudes (Browse et al. 2013)) is deposited on ice/snow surfaces, reducing albedo and enhancing Arctic warming far in excess of atmospheric forcing (Flanner et al. 2007; Sand et al. 2016). Studies of present day and future climate impacts of Arctic shipping are inconclusive, predicting both cooling and warming effects (i.e. Dalsøren et al. 2013; Marelle et al. 2016), due to the uncertainty in the representation of Arctic BC in global models (Browse et al. 2013; Sand et al. 2017). Thus, there is an urgent need to constrain the effects of ship emitted BC in climate models.

Project Aims and Methods

Two of the most important uncertainties in our assessment of shipping black carbon (BC) impacts are: (1) the uncertainties in current and projected shipping emissions (Fig. 1) (Corbett et al. 2010) and (2) a lack of understanding of the processes controlling the processing of BC in the atmosphere (Arnold et al. 2016; Browse et al. 2012). In this project the student will design observations to evaluate and develop numerical models to investigate the role of ship-emitted black carbon on North Atlantic and Arctic climate. Models typically use simplistic representations of BC processes, which are poorly evaluated in marine and polar environments. In this project the student will develop observations in the upcoming ACRUISE and SEANA ( campaigns in addition to designing and implementing observations at Penlee Point in Cornwall to investigate the impact of shipping in different marine environments. These new observations will be used to improve representations of key processes in BC cycling and estimates of Arctic BC climate forcing in the met office unified model (Walters et al. 2017). 


Figure 1: The evolution of total black carbon shipping emissions in the Arctic and north Atlantic (Corbett et al. 2010; Zbigniew Klimont et al. 2017; Winther et al. 2014). Black lines show current trajectory while the red line indicates a mitigation scenario.

Candidate Requirements

The ideal candidate will have a strong STEM background (e.g. Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Physical Geography, Earth Sciences, Computer Science) with an interest in climate science and atmospheric chemistry. Familiarity with coding would also be an asset.  


Uniquely, the successful candidate would be trained in both computational and measurement methods in climate science and atmospheric chemistry with the aim to produce a multidisciplinary researcher.  

References / Background reading list 

Arnold, SR et al. 2016. “Arctic Air Pollution: Challenges and Opportunities for the next Decade.” Elementa: 1–17.

Berntsen, Terje, and Jan Fuglestvedt. 2008. “Global Temperature Responses to Current Emissions from the Transport Sectors.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Browse, J et al. 2012. “The Scavenging Processes Controlling the Seasonal Cycle in Arctic Sulphate and Black Carbon Aerosol.” Atmos. Chem. Phys. 12: 6775–98.

Browse, J, K S Carslaw, A Schmidt, and J J Corbett. 2013. “Impact of Future Arctic Shipping on High-Latitude Black Carbon Deposition.” Geophys. Res. Lett. 40: 4459–63.

Corbett, J. J. et al. 2010. “Arctic Shipping Emissions Inventories and Future Scenarios.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 10(19): 9689–9704.

Dalsøren, S. B. et al. 2013. “Environmental Impacts of Shipping in 2030 with a Particular Focus on the Arctic Region.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Eyring, V., H. W. Köhler, J. Van Aardenne, and A. Lauer. 2005. “Emissions from International Shipping: 1. The Last 50 Years.” Journal of Geophysical Research D: Atmospheres.

Flanner, M G, C S Zender, J T Randerson, and P J Rasch. 2007. “Present-Day Climate Forcing and Response from Black Carbon in Snow.” J.Geophys. Res 112(D11).

Klimont, Z., S. J. Smith, and J. Cofala. 2013. “The Last Decade of Global Anthropogenic Sulfur Dioxide: 2000-2011 Emissions.” Environmental Research Letters.

Klimont, Zbigniew et al. 2017. “Global Anthropogenic Emissions of Particulate Matter Including Black Carbon.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 17(14): 8681–8723.

Lack, D et al. 2009. “Light Absorbing Carbon Emissions from Commercial Shipping.” Geophys. Res. Lett. 35(L13815).

Marelle, Louis et al. 2016. “Air Quality and Radiative Impacts of Arctic Shipping Emissions in the Summertime in Northern Norway: From the Local to the Regional Scale.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 16(4): 2359–79.

Sand, M. et al. 2016. “Response of Arctic Temperature to Changes in Emissions of Short-Lived Climate Forcers.” Nature Climate Change 6(3): 286–89.

Sand, M et al. 2017. “Aerosols at the Poles: An AeroCom Phase II Multi-Model Evaluation.” Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss. 2017: 1–35.

Unger, N et al. 2010. “Attribution of Climate Forcing to Economic Sectors.” PNAS 107(8): 3382–87.

Walters, D et al. 2017. “The Met Office Unified Model Global Atmosphere 7.0/7.1 and JULES Global Land 7.0 Configurations.” Geosci. Model Dev. Discuss. 2017: 1–78.

Winther, Morten et al. 2014. “Emission Inventories for Ships in the Arctic Based on Satellite Sampled AIS Data.” Atmospheric Environment 91: 1–14.

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


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.

Reference information
You will be asked to name 2 referees as part of the application process, however we will not expect receipt of references until after the shortlisting stage. Your referees should not be from the prospective supervisory team.

If you are shortlisted for interview, please ensure that your two academic referees email their references to the, 7 days prior to the interview dates.  Please note that we will not be contacting referees to request references, you must arrange for them to be submitted to us by the deadline.

References should be submitted by your referees 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 1600 hours GMT Monday 6 January 2020.  Interviews will be held between 10 and 21 February 2020.  For more information about the NERC GW4+ DPT please visit

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email  Project-specific queries should be directed to the lead 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:6th January 2020
Value:£15,009 per annum for 2019-20
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Enquiries