PhD on tropical precipitation in regional climate models

Ghent University (UGent), Belgium
Closing date: 1 June 2023

UGent has an exciting opportunity for a highly motivated PhD student to work on developing and evaluating regional climate models, focusing on extreme tropical precipitation.

Job description:

Precipitation extremes have profound impacts on societies in the tropics, ranging from flooding to landslides and land degradation. Regional climate models are indispensable tools to assess present-day and future precipitation characteristics.

While simulations at convection-permitting scales have shown benefits in the timing and organization of precipitation, even the latest generation of regional climate models suffers from considerable uncertainty in simulating precipitation extremes. Data sciences and ever-higher resolution will undoubtedly improve simulations over the next decade. However, continued development of scale-aware and unified parameterizations will remain essential for breakthroughs in the quality of simulations and our fundamental understanding of the atmosphere.

In this project, the student will have the opportunity to contribute to developing the ALARO regional climate model, particularly regarding its tropical precipitation performance. The ALARO model is one of the canonical configurations of the ALADIN system, embedded in the ACCORD consortium, which brings together 26 National Meteorological Services. It is specifically designed to target the convective grey zone (1 – 10 km grid spacing) and is used for operational numerical weather prediction and regional climate modelling. To evaluate the performance of ALARO, the student will make extensive use of the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) User Facility observations in the Amazon (GO Amazon), West Africa (AMMA) and Australia (Darwin, TWP).

The student will work on one of the following topics, depending on their interest, with the goal of obtaining a PhD in Sciences from Ghent University (UGent):

  • Improving the precipitation microphysics, focusing on raindrop size distributions and their impact on precipitation extremes, cold pool characteristics and storm dynamics.
  • Improving the cloud-turbulence-convection coupling, focusing on improved shallow-to-deep convection transition.
  • Improving the grey-zone deep convection parameterization, focusing on including stochastic perturbations or a more elaborate treatment of cold pools.

UGent offers:

  • A fully funded, full-time PhD position at a competitive salary. There will be a one-year probation and, after a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for another three years (4 years in total).
  • You will be working in the friendly and dynamic UGent Physical Geography Research Group, advised by Prof. Kwinten Van Weverberg, and collaborating with model development experts from the Belgian and Czech Meteorological Services and scientists from the ARM/ASR programme. You will have access to state-of-the-art research infrastructure at the Flemish High-Performance Computing Centre (VSC), allowing for high-level scientific training at a top-ranked university.
  • Ghent University has a generous benefits package open to all its staff members, including a wide range of training and education opportunities, 36 days of holiday leave and a wide range of sports and leisure facilities. Ghent is a vibrant, safe and welcoming university city allowing great quality of life.
  • You will have the opportunity to attend international conferences, publish your results in high-profile journals and visit relevant research institutes. If desired, you can assist in teaching of courses on atmospheric sciences and modelling at master level.

Job profile:

  • You hold a master’s degree in Physics, Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Engineering, or equivalent.
  • You are skilled in programming in FORTRAN and Python (or equivalent) and have a good understanding of atmospheric physics.
  • You have a problem-solving, analytical mind, dedicated to overcoming technical challenges.
  • You are a driven, hard-working person, committed to obtaining a PhD.
  • You have good oral and written communication skills, and are fluent in English.

How to apply:

Send a motivation letter (English), Curriculum Vitae (English, with an indication of degrees obtained), and the name and contact details of one reference, using “PhD Precipitation Modelling” as the subject line to More information can also be requested via this email address. The position will remain open until a suitable candidate has been found, although we encourage submitting applications before 1 June 2023.

After a favorable evaluation of your application, you will be invited for an in-person or online interview.