PhD: Weather’s impact on ocean circulation

Project Description

Scientific background

Momentum and energy fluxes at the air-sea interface, which play a fundamental role in our climate system, are observed to vary on a vast range of spatial and temporal scales. A significant part of these air-sea fluxes is caused by mesoscale weather systems that are too small and too short-lived to be properly resolved by the current generation of global climate models. Recent modelling studies suggest that the ocean circulation can be very sensitive to air-sea fluxes associated with unresolved weather systems such as polar lows and tip jets. However, there have been no systematic studies of the impact of these weather systems on global ocean circulation and climate.

The overall aim of this project is to improve our understanding of weather's effect on regional and global ocean circulations. This is an exciting new research area with many important climatic implications including, for example, future mesoscale weather parameterizations in global climate models.


Research Methodology

You will join a productive research team of physical oceanographers and meteorologists. The tools to tackle this project will include a combination of simple theory and numerical models of different complexity. You will start with a simple 1D upper ocean model to build up an understanding of the physical processes involved in ocean response to atmospheric forcing, and then use the state-of-the-art MIT ocean circulation model to investigate the impact of weather systems on ocean general circulation. The student will be encouraged to pursue his or her own particular interests under the general aim of the project.



This project will provide you with a thorough training in ocean dynamics, air-sea interactions, numerical modelling and data analysis. Researchers in the School regularly lead and take part in field campaigns and there will very likely be an opportunity for field work if you wish.


Person specification

We seek an enthusiastic candidate with strong scientific interests and self-motivation. He or she will have at least a 2.1 honors degree in physics, mathematics, oceanography, meteorology, or climate science with good numerical skills.



1Condron, A., and I. A. Renfrew, 2013: The impact of polar mesoscale storms on northeast Atlantic Ocean circulation, Nature Geoscience, 6, 34-37.

2Pickart, R. S., M. A. Spall, M. H. Ribergaard, G. W. K. Moore, and R. F. Milliff 2003: Deep convection in the Irminger Sea forced by the Greenland tip jet, Nature, 424, 152–156.

3Williams, P. D., 2012: Climatic impacts of stochastic fluctuations in air-sea fluxes, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L10705, doi:10.1029/2012GL051813.

4Zhai, X., H. L. Johnson, D. P. Marshall, and C. Wunsch, 2012: On the wind power input to the ocean general circulation, J. Phys. Oceanogr.,42, 1357-1365.


Start date: October 2015

Programme: PhD

Mode of Study: Full Time


Read more and apply online.