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PhD Studentship: NERC GW4+ DTP PhD Studentship for 2024 Entry - Improved Extreme Climate Indices for Food Security Risk Analysis

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: 4963

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 occurrence and severity of extreme climate events is changing globally and has marked impacts on agriculture and food security (Falloon et al. 2022), but we currently lack a robust understanding of their impacts and how to quantify them. There have been attempts to estimate impacts based on empirical approaches (e.g. Bradshaw et al. 2022), while dynamic process-based models are also known to have limitations in representing the impacts of extreme events (e.g. (e.g. Franke et al. 2020; Li et al. 2019).  Preliminary work involving the supervisory team, combining production and trade data with novel agroclimatic indices for extreme events has demonstrated significant challenges in representing yield shocks at national aggregate level. This studentship will therefore aim to develop improved extreme climate indices for agriculture to support resilience and adaptation planning.

This CASE project is partly funded and supervised by the Met Office, the internationally-recognized weather and climate research service. The student will benefit from interactions from some of the world’s foremost expertise in climate and food security research.

Project Aims and Methods

The project will:

  1. Quantify the effect of extreme weather events on crop yields and prices, and in particular on the occurrence of market ‘shocks’. This work will use statistical data fusion to coherently merge observations and climate model output on extreme weather events, while also combining these data with existing impacts indices and approaches (including process-based models).
  2. Develop improved approaches for assessing extreme event impacts (building on existing approaches and exploring new avenues), and demonstrate them for a small number of representative case studies in agriculture across land uses and geographies. 
  3. Perform future assessments of impacts, using the improved/developed indices to support risk assessment, resilience and adaptation planning.

The project will provide feedback to the development of climate observations and models, building on the assessment of current capabilities in Task 1. The student will be given opportunities to develop their own ideas and interests within the scope of the project, in discussion with the Lead Supervisor.

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