PhD Studentship: Water Mass Formation and Ocean Heat Uptake in a Changing Climate (STEVENS_UMTH18EE)

University of East Anglia - School of Mathematics

Start Date: October 2018

No. of positions available: 1

Supervisor: Professor David Stevens

Project description: Scientific Background
The properties of oceanic waters are set in the surface mixed layer and then transported into the ocean interior. This process is known as water mass formation. How and where these waters move into the ocean interior impacts the oceanic uptake of heat and carbon dioxide. This is important, as around 90% of the heat energy attributed to man-made greenhouse gases has been stored in the ocean. Recent assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have shown that while surface properties are starting to be well simulated by climate models, there are significant biases in the ocean interior.

Understanding and resolving these biases is critical to delivering more accurate predictions of future climate. 

Research Methodology
The successful candidate will:

  • Assess the water mass properties and formation processes in state-of-the-art climate models, using the latest observational datasets;
  • Determine the processes leading to model deficiencies and examine the role of recent model improvements, such as increased model resolution, in improving simulations;
  • Determine future ocean heat uptake and its sensitivity to model configuration;
  • Undertake model sensitivity experiments with the aim of suggesting further improvements to climate models.

Training and research environment
You will join an active research group at UEA in meteorology, oceanography and climate. Training will be offered in modelling the ocean and climate system, and you will learn to use state-of-the-art computer systems to rigorously analyse large climate model datasets. You will have the opportunity to present your work at an international conference. There will also be an opportunity to undertake fieldwork to gain an appreciation of data collection and quality issues.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with over twenty other research partners. Undertaking a PhD with the EnvEast DTP will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 12/13 February 2018.

For further information, please visit

Person specification: We seek an enthusiastic, pro-active student with strong scientific interests and self-motivation. You will have at least a 2.1 honours degree in physics, mathematics, meteorology, oceanography or environmental science with good numerical ability. Experience of a programming language will be advantageous. This project will suit an applicant intending to start a scientific career in meteorology, oceanography or climate science.

EnvEast welcomes applicants from quantitative disciplines who may have limited background in environmental sciences. Excellent candidates will be considered for an award of an additional 3-month stipend to take appropriate advanced-level courses in the subject area.

Funding notes: Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. For non-UK EU-resident applicants NERC funding can be used to cover fees, RTSG and training costs, but not any part of the stipend. Individual institutes may, however, elect to provide a stipend from their own resources. 

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