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PhD position (C2a)

Improved rainfall forecasts for the tropics based on tropical waves

This PhD position contributes to project C2 "Statistical-dynamical forecasts of tropical rainfall".

Primary supervisor: Prof. Dr. Peter Knippertz
Other project leader: Prof. Dr. Andreas H. Fink

The Atmospheric Dynamics group at the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) offers a PhD position within Phase 2 of the collaborative research center "Waves to Weather (W2W)". The Atmospheric Dynamics group is internationally renowned for its work on the physical mechanisms of weather systems and their implications for predictability, with a particular focus on tropical weather and African meteorology.

KIT is a distinguished research university that combines three core tasks — research, education and innovation — into a single mission. With 9,400 employees and 25,000 students, it is one of the largest institutions of research and higher education in natural sciences and engineering in Europe. In the area of Atmospheric Science KIT was ranked #1 in Germany and #6 in Europe in the last Shanghai Ranking.

Predicting rainfall in the tropics remains one of the great challenges of weather forecasting today. Research during Phase 1 of W2W has revealed low skill in our current prediction systems, particularly over Africa with its high degree of convective organization. At the same time we could show that tropical rainfall is modulated by synoptic- to planetary-scale tropical wave phenomena (e.g. Kelvin and Rossby waves, African easterly waves, Madden-Julian Oscillation) to a degree that indicates large potential for successfully forecasts. Realizing this potential is the ultimate aim of our research in Phase 2. In the long run, this could create substantial socio-economic benefits given the high dependency of tropical societies on rainfall.


The project is designed as a twin project of KIT and the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS). The PhD student in Meteorology will work closely with a fellow student from Mathematics (supervised by Tilmann Gneiting) to construct statistical-dynamical forecast models for the tropics. The first part of the PhD will focus on observation-based models. The research will concentrate on a careful selection of adequate predictor variables and an evaluation and meteorological interpretation of the statistical models to be developed by the mathematicians in the project. The second part will expand this concept to take into account predictor variables from dynamical models, in particular from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). This will include a careful evaluation of the chosen dynamical predictor variables using ensemble verification techniques. The project will involve collaborations with colleagues in the USA and the UK, as well as with operational weather services (ECMWF, ACMAD), which will allow the PhD student to spend some time abroad.

The ideal candidate holds an MSc in Meteorology, Physics, or a closely related discipline and has a strong background in atmospheric dynamics and an interest or first experiences in (sub)tropical meteorology. Experience with scientific programming (e.g. linux, python, fortran, idl, ncl, cdo, R) is required.

The position is initially funded for 3 years with possible extension until June 2023 and should start as soon as possible. It is remunerated according to TV-L E13 (75%). Applicants are asked to specify their desired starting date and to give the contact details of two academic referees.

W2W features an innovative program for the development of early career researchers based on self-government. In addition to self-organized activities such as workshops, trainings and a guest program, the successful candidate will have the opportunity, if desired, to pursue an international research visit of at least one week. The consortium conducts an ambitious program to gradually enhance gender equality on all career levels within the academic fields combined in W2W.

KIT actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion, and as an equal opportunity employer, KIT explicitly encourages applications from women as well as from all others who will bring additional diversity to the university’s research and teaching. KIT provides support for families. Applicants with disabilities will be preferentially considered if suitably qualified.

If you are interested, please apply online here!