The Big Chill - Observing and modelling cold air outbreaks (RENFREW_UENV17EE)

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Sciences

Start Date:  October 2017

No. of positions available: 1

Supervisor: Prof Ian Renfrew

Project description:  
Scientific background

Cold-air outbreaks occur when polar air masses sweep equatorwards bringing cold air over relatively warm water. The large ensuing transfer of heat from ocean to atmosphere leads to dramatic cooling of the upper ocean, forcing ocean convection and sea-ice formation, and generating dense water masses that feed into the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, a key component of the global ocean circulation, see Cold-air outbreaks occur frequently over the subpolar seas and commonly affect the UK weather in winter, often generating high-impact weather, such as snow showers that are important to forecast accurately. Consequently it is vital that cold-air outbreaks are well-represented in both numerical weather prediction and climate models.

Although the broad-scale characteristics of cold-air outbreaks are generally well-represented in models, recent studies have highlighted a number of systematic problems, e.g. the simulated surface heat fluxes can be vastly different to those observed; and it is very difficult to model the clouds associated with cold-air outbreaks, with consequences for the surface radiation budget.

Research Methodology
In this project you will investigate cold-air outbreaks using a number of case studies gathered from aircraft-based field campaigns. You will run the Met Office’s Unified Model at high resolution to simulate these cases and test various new parameterizations of surface exchange, the boundary layer and cloud microphysics. This is a state-of-the art weather and climate prediction model, which is used for operational forecasting and climate modelling. You will join a productive research team of meteorologists and physical oceanographers at UEA, which will be complemented by co-supervisors at the British Antarctic Survey and the Met Office.

This project will provide you with a thorough training in atmospheric dynamics and physics, numerical modelling and data analysis. You will have the opportunity to undertake field work as part of a larger research project in March 2018.

Person specification: We seek an enthusiastic candidate with strong scientific interests and self-motivation. He or she will have at least a 2.1 honours degree in physics, mathematics, meteorology, oceanography (or similar).

Funding notes: This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with twenty other research partners.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 14/15 February 2017.

Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. In 2016/17, the stipend was £14,296.

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