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Applications are now open for PhD studentships starting in October 2018. 

Please read the recruitment introduction for more information about eligibility, how to apply, and possibilities for further funding.

The deadline for applications is 8 January 2018.

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OSBORN_UENV18EE - Weather extremes under a changing climate: making better projections of future climate (CASE studentship with Atkins)

Project description

Selected other project supervisors:
Dr Joanne Parker (Atkins)

Scientific significance
The most severe impacts of climate change arise through changes in the occurrence of extreme weather events, and yet attempts to increase society’s resilience to such extremes is hampered by inadequate understanding of how these extremes are being modified under a changing climate.

This is a pressing and societally-important scientific issue.

This project will bring together two prominent climate change projection techniques (perturbed weather generators and pattern scaling) to obtain a next-generation scientific tool that combines advantages from both.  You will benefit from working across the boundary between scientific research and industry, including an extended research visit at CASE partner Atkins, to develop improved projections of severe weather under climate change.

Research plan

  1. Use databases of observations and climate model projections to identify changing weather extremes across the land masses of the world, and to evaluate how their characteristics change as a function of global warming.
  2. Apply these findings to implement a weather generator (a statistical tool that generates sequences of realistic weather) across different climate regimes, and identify where the pattern of weather generator parameters can be scaled (pattern scaling) to represent future climate regimes.
  3. There are many scientific challenges when applying this across the globe (e.g. representing extreme rainfall from hurricanes that only rarely affect a particular location) which you will address by considering both the meteorological setting and how these events can be represented better in a statistical sense.
  4. These scientific developments will lead to the development of a new tool, suitable for and co-designed by expert practitioners working in industry who use knowledge about the changing risks from severe weather events.

You will gain transferable skills necessary to pursue a range of academic and non-academic careers: scientific computing tools and programming (e.g. ‘R’), the ability to use and interpret computer model outputs, industry experience and communication at technical and scientific levels. You will study in the world-renowned Climatic Research Unit.

Person specification
A good Honours degree in a relevant subject area (Environmental Sciences, Physics, Maths, Statistics, Geography or a related discipline), an aptitude for research, numerate and a clear communicator.

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 by EnvEast on 12/13 February 2018.

Selected candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. Ordinarily, EnvEast studentships are for 3.5 years, although longer awards may be made to applicants from quantitative disciplines who have limited experience in the environmental sciences, to allow them to take appropriate advanced-level courses in the subject area.

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 tuition 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.

This PhD studentship is expected to begin in September/October 2018. Both full-time and part-time study are possible (those planning to study part-time may wish to discuss this with the supervisor before applying).


  1. Osborn TJ, Wallace CJ, Harris IC and Melvin TM (2016) Pattern scaling using ClimGen: monthly-resolution future climate scenarios including changes in the variability of precipitation. Climatic Change, 134, 353-369 (doi:10.1007/s10584-015-1509-9).
  2. Arnell NW, Lowe JA, Brown S, Gosling SN, Gottschalk P, Hinkel J, Lloyd-Hughes B, Nicholls RJ, Osborn TJ, Osborne TM, Rose GA, Smith P and Warren R (2013) A global assessment of the effects of climate policy on the impacts of climate change. Nature Climate Change 3, 512-519 (doi:10.1038/NCLIMATE1793).
  3. Jones PD, Harpham C, Burton A and Goodess CM (2016) Downscaling regional climate model outputs for the Caribbean using a weather generator. International Journal of Climatology (doi:10.1002/joc.4624).
  4. Darch GJC, McSweeney RT, Kilsby CG, Jones PD, Osborn TJ and Tomlinson JE (2016) Analysing changes in short duration extreme rainfall events. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Water Management (doi:10.1680/jwama.14.00040).
  5. Maraun D, Wetterhall F, Ireson AM, Chandler RE, Kendon EJ, Widmann M, Brienen S, Rust HW, Sauter J, Themel M, Venema VKC, Chun KP, Goodess CM, Jones RG, Onof C, Vrac M and Thiele-Eich I (2010) Precipitation downscaling under climate change: Recent developments to bridge the gap between dynamical models and the end user. Reviews of Geophysics 48, RG3003 (doi:10.1029/2009RG000314).