Summer Scholarship Projects
Supervised by Dr. Jeff Exbrayat
The FLUXNET network provides useful data for the evaluation and improvement of land surface models, including their carbon cycling component. However, corresponding short-term simulations are very sensitive to initial conditions and rare field measurements of soil carbon content are hardly transferable to model quantities. Therefore, a part of the mismatch between observations and simulations could probably be removed by setting model initial conditions to optimal values. Examples of scientific questions that could be addressed are:
How much do adequate initial conditions improve model simulations? What is the place left for improvement of process understanding, and where? What is the uncertainty in initial conditions introduce by using different parameterizations (e.g. nutrient limitations)? Basic knowledge of a scripting language (Matlab and Python) is required and experience with Fortran in a UNIX/Linux environment in desirable.
Supervised by Dr. Paul Spence
Atmospheric observations from the past few decades reveal a poleward shift and strengthening of Southern Hemisphere westerly winds that appears to be due to anthropogenic forcing, with increasing atmospheric concentrations of both ozone-depleting gases and greenhouse gases identified as playing critical roles. Concurrent oceanic observations also indicate that portions of the Southern Ocean have been warming at nearly twice the rate of the global ocean. The focus of this research project is to evaluate the Southern Ocean response to anthropogenic forcing with a particular focus on Antarctic Bottom Water formation and the Antarctic Circumpolar transport. The student will gain valuable hands-on experience in running and analysing high-resolution global ocean models.
The winds are the main driver of the ocean circulation. This means that if the winds change, the ocean circulation will also change. In particular, if the winds would suddenly stop blowing, the wind-driven component of the ocean circulation would slowly spin down. This time scale with which the ocean spins down is of interest, as it is related to the robustness of the ocean circulation. In a linear world, the time scale of spin-down is equal to that of spin-up; in the real ocean, however, eddies complicate the picture. In this project, you will investigate the way an ocean basins spins up and spins down and how eddies affect the time scales. You will learn how to analyse ocean model output using tools such as Matlab.
Supervised by Dr. Laurie Menviel
Past changes in the oceanic circulation had a significant impact on the climate as well as on the carbon cycle. The goal of the project is to study climate-carbon cycle interactions linked to past and possible future changes in the oceanic circulation using models of intermediate complexity. The work mainly involves the analysis of model outputs using “Matlab” and “Ferret” and/or writing basic shell programs to better manage the model outputs. Knowledge of “Matlab” and/or “Ferret” is desirable.
Land surface modelling with the Community Atmosphere Biosphere Land Exchange (CABLE) model; model evaluation, land-atmosphere coupling, and the terrestrial carbon cycle
Supervised by Dr. Jatin Kala
A number of simulations have been carried out with the Community Atmosphere Biosphere Land Exchange (CABLE) model, both offline and coupled to an atmospheric model. There are ample opportunities for a student(s) to address research questions such as: How does CABLE compare against remote sensing and ground observations of surface fluxes? Does the parameterisation of background-soil albedo in CABLE improve heat and carbon fluxes? What is the influence of different LAI prescriptions on surface fluxes and possibly, extremes? How does CABLE compare with the more widely used NOAH land-surface model when coupled to an atmospheric model? The student will gain exposure to land-surface modelling generally, as well as learn a scripted language, the NCAR command language.
Supervised by Dr. Willem Sijp
Understanding climatic cooling since the late Eocene remains a challenge. In this project, making use of the scientific literature, we will review some of the salient findings so far regarding the role of opening Southern Ocean seaways, with a focus on the middle Miocene and the Eocene/ Oligocene boundary. Numerical climate model output prepared by the supervisor (no strong data analysis/ computer skills required) may also be used to support the compilation of the final deliverable, namely a concise write outline of the role of gateways in Cenozoic cooling. This project will not use equations.
Supervised by Dr. Lluis Fita Borrell
The NARCliM (http://www.ccrc.unsw.edu.au/NARCliM/) project will provide climatological information from a numerical atmospheric model over Australia. In order to evaluate the simulations, vertical soundings of the atmosphere will be used to perform an analysis of thermal inversions and their relationship with pollution indices, urban heat island effects and strong convection events. We will derive different atmospheric indices using all the sounding data provided by the Bureau of Meteorology and use them to evaluate the atmospheric model.
Our best candidate would be an enthusiastic student with interest in atmospheric/climatological sciences, who is willing to learn to use python with a scientific objective. The student will be responsible of the inclusion of new indices into the python framework and the plotting and analysis of the observational climatologies of the indices.
Supervised by Dr. Melissa Hart
This project will use a microclimate model, ENVI-met, to investigate the influence of different configurations of building height and density, building thermal properties, and vegetation cover on the urban microclimate. ENVI-met is a 3-D prognostic microclimate model that simulates surface-plant-air interactions in complex urban environments. ENVI-met is Windows based software and does not require any programming skills to run the model, though some prior exposure to GIS would be useful.
The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the largest global climate signal on interannual timescales and has a large effect on Australian temperatures and rainfall. Over the period that we have been observing ENSO there have been long-term changes in frequency, magnitude and duration of ENSO events, yet individual events follow a similar pattern with growth, peak and decay phases appearing to be synchronized with the seasonal cycle. This study will use a hierarchy of numerical models to examine how ENSO behaviour is related to both the seasonal cycle and longer term variability of the Pacific Ocean. The skills required for the idealised model part of the project would be basic maths and some familiarity with programming (Matlab or fortran or similar). For the high resolution model part students would need to be familiar with a data analysis package (ferret or Matlab or similar).
Supervised by Dr. Angela Maharaj
The unprecedented resolution of satellite altimetry has revealed the ubiquity of westward propagating features in the world ocean. These are the surface manifestation of ocean adjustment to perturbations, operate at seasonal to decadal time scales and help set the timing of climate variability. A student is required to conduct spectral analysis (Fourier and Radon Transform) of global sea surface heights from the most recent satellite altimetry data to explore and characterise westward propagating signals in the data. Familiarity with Matlab is essential (routines already written but quality control of data and some update of code may be required).
Supervised by Dr. Donna Green
This project explores relationships between health and climate by analysing 20 years of admissions data from major hospitals in northern and central Australia, and relates those findings to climate data. This analysis identifies whether there is any relationship between the climate and the rates of various diseases amongst Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. In particular, we are looking at whether there has been any historical change in hospital admissions for a range of diseases that the literature suggests are affected by climatic conditions, such as extreme heat or humidity. The scholarship project would work on one or two themes arising from the preliminary conclusions of this analysis, and develop them further working with the project team members at UNSW and potentially for a short period of time at CSIRO climate impacts.
Some statistical background would be beneficial to understand this analysis work, but a keen interest to learn new skills and read widely would be most important.