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Award details

Tracking Storms and Extreme Rainfall over Brazil in Convection-Permitting Simulations of Present and Future Climate, NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship for 2022 Entry, PhD in Mathematics Ref: 4256

About the award


Lead Supervisor

Dr Robin Chadwick, University of Exeter, Department of Mathematics

Additional Supervisors

Dr Jennifer Catto, University of Exeter, Department of Mathematics

Dr Kate Halladay, Met Office

Dr Neil Hart, University of Oxford, School of Geography and the Environment

Location: Streatham Campus, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon

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 stipend for 3.5 years (currently £15,609 p.a. for 2021/22) 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


Tropical Convective Storm

Project details

Project Background

Brazil is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, such as floods, droughts and landslides. Extreme rainfall in the region is frequently associated with organised storm systems such as mesoscale convective systems. Future changes in storms and rainfall over Brazil are likely to have large impacts on Brazilian society and ecosystems but are highly uncertain, partly because the current generation of global climate models (CMIP6 models) run at horizontal grid resolutions that are too coarse to explicitly represent convective storms. Without robust and accurate projections of future rainfall over Brazil, it is very difficult to plan and implement the climate adaptation measures (such as improved flood defences) that are urgently needed.

New cutting-edge climate simulations at kilometre-scale, convection-permitting resolution have recently been completed over South America. These simulations are likely to represent many elements of Brazilian climate more realistically than coarser resolution simulations, especially convective storms and their associated intense rainfall. This may be key to providing robust and actionable future projections of extreme precipitation. This project will help to provide improved projections of future climate change over Brazil, which will be used by Brazilian scientists and policymakers to make more informed decisions about how to reduce the vulnerability of Brazil to natural disasters and climate change.

Project Aims and Methods

This project will assess the representation of storms and their associated precipitation in state-of-the-art convection-permitting model (CPM) climate simulations. This will include a comparison with present-day observations, analysis of the response to climate change, and a comparison with coarser resolution simulations of both the representation of present-day climate and the response to climate change. Multiple storm-tracking approaches will be used to capture systems from the convective scale through to the mid-latitude storm scale as they track over Brazil.

This project will focus on answering the following research questions, but will also be strongly influenced by the student’s own ideas over the course of the studentship:

1) How well are storms over Brazil represented in the present-day CPM runs, when compared with observations? This will include analysis of the initiation, propagation, size and other characteristics of organised convective systems, together with their relationship to precipitation and precipitation extremes.

2) How do storms over Brazil respond to climate change in the CPM runs? Changes to organised convective systems and their relationship to precipitation will be examined. We will also explore the drivers of these changes, e.g. changes in moisture and large-scale atmospheric circulation.

3) How does model resolution affect storms over Brazil in present-day and future climates? CPM results will be compared with a storm tracking and precipitation analysis of coarser resolution global climate models.

Candidate requirements

The candidate must have achieved, or be expected to achieve, a first class or 2:1 degree in Meteorology, Oceanography, Mathematics, Physics, Environmental Science or related field. A Master’s level qualification with previous experience of conducting independent research is desirable. Knowledge of scientific programming languages (e.g., Python, Matlab, IDL, R) would be advantageous.

Project partners 

This project is a CASE partnership with the Met Office. Dr Kate Halladay will be the Met Office CASE co-supervisor for this studentship, providing expert guidance on use of the South American convection-permitting simulations. The student will benefit from the opportunity to spend time at the Met Office during the project, attend weekly group meetings in their research area and to attend regular climate and weather science seminars. They will also have access to Met Office data and computing resources.


The student will be offered a variety of courses at the University of Exeter including ‘Research Methodology’, ’Computation and Numerical Analysis’, ‘Modelling the Weather and Climate’, and ‘The Climate System’. Advanced skills training will be provided on the job where appropriate in climate physics, programming and numerical modelling and will be achieved through regular contact with supervisors. 

Useful links

For information relating to the research project please contact Robin Chadwick:


NERC GW4+ DTP studentships are open to UK and Irish nationals who, if successful in their applications, will receive a full studentship including payment of university tuition fees at the home fees rate.

A limited number of full studentships are also available to international students which are defined as EU (excluding Irish nationals), EEA, Swiss and all other non-UK nationals.  For further details please see the NERC GW4+ website.

Those not meeting the nationality and residency requirements to be treated as a ‘home’ student may apply for a limited number of full studentships for international students. Although international students are usually charged a higher tuition fee rate than ‘home’ students, those international students offered a NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership full studentship starting in 2022 will only be charged the ‘home’ tuition fee rate (which will be covered by the studentship). 

International applicants need to be aware that you will have to cover the cost of your student visa, healthcare surcharge and other costs of moving to the UK to do a PhD. More information on this is available from the universities you are applying to (contact details are provided in the project description that you are interested in.

The conditions for eligibility of home fees status are complex and you will need to seek advice if you have moved to or from the UK (or Republic of Ireland) within the past 3 years or have applied for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.



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, please see the entry requirements for details.
  • Two references

Reference information
You will be asked to submit two references as part of the application process.  If you are not able to upload  your reference documents with your application please ensure you provide details of your referees.  If you provide contact details of referees only, 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 Friday 10 January 2022. Interviews will be held between 28 February and 4 March 2022.  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:10th January 2022
Value:£15,609 per annum for 2021-2022
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Enquiries