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PhD Studentship: NERC GW4+ DTP PhD Studentship for 2024 Entry - UK Climate Extremes under a World with Active Climate Intervention

University of Exeter - Department of Mathematics

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Exeter
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £18,622 p.a. for 2023-24
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 3rd November 2023
Closes: 9th January 2024
Reference: 4962

About the Partnership

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.

Project Background

The difficulties in ameliorating global warming and the associated climate change via conventional mitigation are well documented. Such difficulties have led to growing interest in so-called ‘solar geoengineering’ whereby the planet might be deliberately brightened, which acts to offset some of the global warming due to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases. Although many solar geoengineering methods have been proposed (Fig. 1), the method that has received the most traction is stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI), which aims to mimic the cooling effect of large stratospheric eruptions by injecting reflective particles into the stratosphere. Many studies with global climate models (GCMs) have shown that SAI would be effective at cooling Earth, but at the cost of regional impacts such as changes to the North Atlantic storms, Amazonian hydrology, and monsoonal precipitation. Thus, before SAI deployment could be considered viable, its impacts must be evaluated for individual regions and specifically targeted at climatic events with local importance.

The UK Climate Projections 2018 (UKCP18) report painted a clear picture of the potential severity of climate change in the UK. In particular it highlighted the impact of future global warming on surface wind gusts and sea-level rise around the UK coastline, exacerbating the risk of storm surges and the inundation of coastal locations. Global warming would intensify heatwaves and heavy summer rainfall events but reduce overall summer rainfall and soil water levels, with concomitant impacts on water resources, crop yields, flooding risk, and associated damages. As an island nation the UK is particularly vulnerable to climate change. 

Most multi-model SAI studies have been performed under the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP). However, the coarse resolution of the global models used means that they represent many key aspects of the climate only crudely (e.g annual mean precipitation), and some aspects of climate very poorly (e.g. extremes). Precipitation extreme events can cause severe flooding, loss of life and severe financial losses. Dynamical downscaling where high-resolution regional models are embedded within GCMs (e.g., UKCP 20118) provides a solution to many of these issues as the broad climate response is captured by the coarse resolution models, while the finer resolution is able to resolve regional phenomena such as deep convection, turbulence, precipitation and temperature extremes, and air pollution episodes with much greater fidelity. Figure 2 shows winter precipitation forecasts from a GCM and a high-resolution regional climate model (RCM) and highlights the extra information garnered from downscaling.

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