PhD: The maritime continent: Breaking the tropical barrier to global weather and climate prediction

Project Description

Scientific background

Global weather and climate patterns are strongly controlled from the tropics.  For example, the extreme wet, mild winter in the UK  of 2013/14 has been linked to weather activity in the “tropical warm pool”, the region of very warm ocean that extends from the Indian Ocean eastwards into the western Pacific.  The main weather system responsible for these effects is the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO;  At the heart of the warm pool lies the maritime continent, a complex archipelago of large and small islands that includes the countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea.  These islands act as a physical barrier to weather systems in the region.  For example, some MJO weather systems succeed in crossing the maritime continent, while others do not.  The effects on subsequent global weather development can be very different between these two cases.


Research methodology

You will determine the atmospheric and oceanic processes that control the maritime continent barrier in climate and weather.  This will be achieved by analysis of state-of-the-art high-resolution global observational data sets, and experiments with global climate models.


Training and research environment

You will join an active research group at UEA in tropical meteorology, oceanography and climate, and will collaborate with the tropical and global meteorology group at University of Reading.  You will be trained in meteorological, oceanographical and climate theory, and in the theoretical and practical aspects of climate analysis of very large data sets (substantial in-house training, and a python Climate Data Analysis Tools (CDAT) training workshop), and computer modelling of weather and climate (MetUM training workshop).  You will have the opportunity to present your work at an international conference.


Person specification

We seek an enthusiastic, pro-active student with strong scientific interests and self-motivation.  You will have at least a 2.1 honours degree in physics, mathematics, meteorology, oceanography or environmental science with good numerical ability.  Experience of a programming language such as python or matlab will be advantageous.    This project will suit an applicant intending to start a scientific career in meteorology, oceanography or climate science.



Peatman SC, Matthews AJ, Stevens DP, 2014: Propagation of the Madden-Julian Oscillation through the Maritime Continent and scale interaction with the diurnal cycle of precipitation. Quart. J. Roy. Meteorol. Soc., 140, 814-825.

Matthews AJ, 2008: Primary and successive events in the Madden-Julian Oscillation. Quart. J. Roy. Meteorol. Soc., 134, 439-453.

Klingaman NP, Woolnough SJ, 2014: The role of air-sea coupling in the simulation of the Madden-Julian oscillation in the Hadley Centre model. Quart. J. Roy. Meteorol. Soc., published online, doi: 10.1002/qj.2295.


Start date: October 2015

Programme: PhD

Mode of Study: Full Time


Read more and apply online.