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C312: The Polar Atmosphere under Global Climate Change (Lead Supervisor: John Pyle, Chemistry)

Supervisors: John Pyle (Chemistry), Alex Archibald (Chemistry) and Anna Jones (BAS)

Importance of the area of research:

The polar regions can be sensitive and early indicators of global change, as shown by the Antarctic “ozone hole’, the loss of Arctic sea ice, and the higher rate of warming than at lower latitudes.  There is also clear evidence of important changes in global tropospheric composition, which can affect the atmosphere’s ability to oxidize airborne pollutants and regulate the growth of reactive greenhouse gas concentrations. Long term tropospheric composition records are now being collected, prompting critical questions: Are these the right data to detect global change? Should different atmospheric species be measured? Given natural variability, at what stage can we expect to detect a clear signal of climate-driven tropospheric composition change?

Project summary:

Although remote, the polar atmosphere is under pressure from human activities and climate change. Long-term measurements are routinely made to monitor chemical composition and detect changes. These are costly and take time, so we must be careful we make the right ones. This is where your PhD comes in. You will use cutting edge numerical models of the atmosphere, together with measurements made in the Arctic and Antarctic, to explore how atmospheric composition might vary under future climate change. Your modelling results will be used to guide our strategy for polar atmospheric composition measurements into the future.

What the student will do:

The student will consolidate various polar tropospheric composition datasets, to develop a time-varying (seasonal to longer, depending on the particular data) picture of polar composition and its recent changes. Our global composition climate will be run, first, to allow comparison between the model, as a representation of our best current understanding, and the data. The model will be refined, as necessary. Then a series of integrations will explore polar composition change, under a range of assumptions about climate change and inferences made about the best means of early detection of future change.

Please contact the lead supervisor directly for further information relating to what the successful applicant will be expected to do, training to be provided, and any specific educational background requirements.


Helmig, D., Oltmans, S., Carlson, D., Lamarque, J.-F., Jones, A.E., Labuschagne, C., Anlauf, K. and Hayden, K., A review of surface ozone in the polar regions, Atmos. Env., 41, 5138-5161,  2007.

Morgenstern, O., P.Braesicke, F.M.O’Connor, A.C.Bushell, C.E.Johnson, S.M.Osprey and J.A.Pyle, Evaluation of the new UKCA climate-composition model. Part I: the stratosphere. Geosci. Model Dev. 2, 43-57, 2009.

Voulgarakis, A., X. Yang, J.A. Pyle, How different would tropospheric oxidation be over an ice-free Arctic?, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L23807, 2009.

Follow this link to find out about how to apply for this project.

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