PhD Student Position

  • Anywhere


Climate and weather extremes in early instrumental records: causes,
mechanisms, consequences

This PhD project is one of two PhD projects arising from the NERC-funded
consortium GloSAT. GloSAT will extend the observed surface temperature
record back into the 18th century, and extend the coverage of historical
climate change data using historical ship data, logbooks and other
sources. The student will identify past extreme seasonal and monthly
events over both land and ocean, making use of multiple data sources
including climate model data and palaeoclimatic data. The physical
mechanisms and spatial extent of early extremes will be analysed where
possible, using historical weather analysis data and early observations
of sea level pressure, many of which are now becoming available. Climate
models output will be used to identify mechanisms and possible causes of
these events.

The student will determine if the probability of individual events has
been affected by external drivers such as volcanic eruptions, and
changes in the sun, building on techniques used to interpret recent
extreme weather events. They will also determine the extent to which the
events are influenced by large-scale climate variability, such as the
North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), Atlantic Multidecadal Variability
(AMV) or El Nino, drawing on GloSAT project results. For example, the
hypothesis will be explored if record cold winters tend to occur during
solar minima in Europe (Lockwood et al., Env. Res. Let. 2010), and to
what extent anomalously warm and wet winters follow volcanic eruptions.

Analysis of temperature extremes over the ocean will investigate what
drives marine heat waves and cold spells. This is necessary for
understanding to what extent extreme marine heat waves

might superimpose on the warming trend in the future, with potentially
devastating consequences for marine life such as corals. This will help
place possible future events into the context of rare past events, for
example, by addressing the question ’what would this event be like if it
occurred today’.

The student will be part of the interdisciplinary UK-wide project team
comprising researchers from the National Oceanography Centre, the Met
Office and the Universities of Edinburgh, Reading, East Anglia,
Southampton and York. He or She will be supervised by Hegerl, supported
by Ed Hawkins (Reading) and Andrew Schurer (Edinburgh). Hawkins will be
consulted at least quarterly, either adjacent to a project meeting, or
through a visit. The student will be connected to the newly funded and
vibrant Edinburgh Earth, Ecology and Environment DTP (18 students/year)
and will join Hegerl’s research group. The student will be trained by
the NERC DTP (transferrable skills, writing, computing and presentation
skills) and apply for external training in suitable summer schools.
Scientifically, the student will learn scientific data analysis,
mechanisms of climate variability and extreme events, extreme value
statistics, climate modelling, climate model analysis and gain an
understanding of quantitative and rigorous analysis approaches.

Funding Notes

The project is funded by NERC and is only open to applications from UK/
EU citizens. In order to be fully eligible you must be a UK or EU
citizen with permanent settled status in the UK and have been ordinarily
resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the
studentship in September 2019.

The successful applicant will be fully funded for 4 years and will
receive a stipend of £15,009pa; home/EU tuition fees and research costs.


Prof. Gabriele Hegerl

Geosciences, University of Edinburgh <>

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
Scotland, with registration number SC005336.