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PhD Studentship: NERC GW4+ DTP PhD Studentship for 2024 Entry - Advancing Weather and Climate Prediction: Breaking the Convergence Barrier

University of Exeter - Department of Mathematics

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Exeter
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: From £18,622
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 3rd November 2023
Closes: 9th January 2024
Reference: 4966

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

Computer models of the atmosphere are crucial tools, at centres like the Met Office, for understanding and predicting the changing climate, and for operational forecasting of all types of weather, including warnings of high-impact severe weather. Such models are run at a wide range of resolutions: horizontal grid spacing might be several tens of km for a climate change forecast, or around 1 km for a regional weather forecast.  In most branches of computational fluid dynamics it is taken for granted that the solution will get more accurate as resolution gets finer - there will be numerical convergence. However, practical experience with weather and climate models often shows slow convergence. Doubling the resolution of an operational forecast requires around an order of magnitude more computing power, so it is essential that the barriers to faster convergence (and hence better forecasts) are understood and, where possible, removed. 

Possible reasons for slow convergence include (i) features in the mathematical equations used to represent processes such as turbulence near the Earth's surface, or cumulus convection, (ii) features in the numerical methods used to solve those equations, or (iii) the properties of the solution itself, such as the on-off nature of condensation, or a nearly singular logarithmic wind profile near the surface.

Project Aims and Methods

The overall aims of the project are (i) to identify factors, within different components of an atmospheric model, that are barriers to convergence, (ii) to quantify their effect, e.g., in terms of rates of convergence, and (iii) to develop alternative models or methods that remove or mitigate these barriers. Good progress on the project could have significant impact on model development as the Met Office move towards operational sub-km-scale modelling.

The project will start by analysing idealised component models, for which there is a strong possibility to develop a quantitative mathematical understanding. Later, it will use the insights obtained to investigate components of the model used operationally or under development at the Met Office. The project will be jointly supervised by the Met Office. Within the project theme described above, there is considerable scope for the student to develop their own ideas and determine the direction of the project.

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