Graduate and Honours Opportunities

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science offers a range of graduate and honours opportunities. Outstanding students may receive top-ups above the rates funded via Australian Postgraduate Awards (APAs) from the Centre of Excellence. We will also offer some scholarships for international students.

Scholarships for honours students may be available for outstanding students, for more information, click here.  

Generous travel support exists for students to visit our international partners.

Many projects are supervised across universities and also there is an expectation that most projects will be co-supervised by experts from the CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology, or one of our international partners.

Climate System Science is a highly quantitative discipline. Most students who will be taken on through the centre will have: A quantitative honours degree, which might include Mathematics, Statistics, Physics, Hydrology, Oceanography, Meteorology, Engineering etc. It might include Biology if you also have Mathematics or computing skills and it might include a range of degrees like Physical Geography, Environmental Science etc again with a reasonable quantitative background. There are always exceptions and you are always welcome to contact us. Almost all Climate System Science requires strong computer science skills. Programming, scripting, management of data sets that may be measured in Petabytes or using Peta-scale computers for analysis and simulation are common in our science and literacy has to be developed in these areas.

The Centre does not usually take new measurements but you are welcome to approach us to discuss exceptions. 

Example projects are listed below. However, we emphasize that you are welcome to approach anyone in the Centre with an idea for a project and – in many cases – the best PhD students should have a sense of what they want to study and we welcome such students.

If you are interested in our opportunities, please complete our Graduate Opportunites Expression of Interest (EOI). Note- this EOI will be used to assess if you have the background suitable to undertake graduate studies in climate science, and if you would be competitive for a scholarship. It is not an official application, if your expression of interest is accepted you will still need to apply for admission and scholarship to one of our universities.

For further information about study in the Centre of Excellence please contact our Graduate Director Melissa Hart.

Examples of Projects

At the Australian National University in ocean sciences; and land surface biophysics and modelling:

  • Using high resolution ocean models to understand the dynamics of the large scale ocean circulation and its role in altering climate change and variability. There is a particular emphasis on the Southern Ocean and it's connection with other oceans. Talk to Andy Hogg.
  • Projects around terrestrial processes, terrestrial feedbacks are available. Talk to Mike Roderick.
  • Land surface biophysics: Process-based studies that examine land-atmopshere coupling. We are especially interested in the coupling between water, energy and carbon and the linkages back to local and regional climates. Talk to Michael Roderick.

At Monash in large-scale climate dynamics:

  • Natural climate variability has a land-sea contrast with ocean variability being  amplified over land. The student will focus on how this works in climate models and observations.  Talk to Christian Jakob.
  • Global decadal climate modes: Climate variability on time scales longer than a decade have global teleconnections, leading to global Hyper  Climate Modes. The student will analyze in models and observations how these teleconnections work. Talk to Dietmar Dommenget.
  • Climate Sensitivity uncertainty: IPCC climate change predictions remain uncertain. The student will do climate model sensitivity studies to investigate the causes of these uncertainties and will try to correct model biases to improve the predictions. Talk to Christian Jakob.
  • The relationship between Rossby wave breaking and the low frequency variability of the Southern Hemisphere using the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS; www.accessimulator.org.au). Talk to Michael Reeder.
  • Understanding the role of diabatic heating on the warm conveyor belt of extratropical cyclones, its effect on the breaking of Rossby waves downstream, and the subsequent generation of extreme precipitation. Talk to Michael Reeder.

At UNSW land, atmosphere and ocean sciences:

  • The role of mesoscale eddies and large-scale modes in Southern Ocean circulation, heat transport and climate. This project will combine models, observations and theory to develop a greater understanding of the Southern ocean and its role in climate. Talk to Matt England.
  • The role of fine-scale ocean circulation in representing ENSO and other tropical modes in climate models. This project will investigate the role of mesoscale flow patterns in the development, onset and decay of ENSO events using high resolution models. Applications to other tropical modes may also be pursued. Talk to Matt England.
  • The dynamics of convective thermals and cells. Talk to Steve Sherwood.
  • Land surface modelling, talk to Andy Pitman:

    • Land surface model development, focusing on the representation of extreme events including drought and heatwaves.

    • Innovative evaluation of land surface models using observations

    • Representation and implementation of land cover change in climate model simulations

    • Relationship between hydrological modelling and extremes in climate models

These projects will likely be collaborative with experts in France, UK, US, and/or Switzerland.All of these projects will lead to considerable experience in high performance supercomputing, and/or an ability to handle “big data”. You will learn Python and other languages. You will also likely develop strong statistical skills. You will also engage with international experts and have opportunities spend time in Europe or the US working with colleagues.

  • Interpreting results from ensembles of climate model results, especially quantifying model dependence and its relationship to model performance in ensembles. Talk to Gab Abramowitz.
  • Projects also exist in using recent developments in spatial extremes. Talk to Lisa Alexander.
  • Projects understanding the variability and drivers of heatwaves, droughts and extreme rainfall across Australia and the globe, and future changes. Talk to Lisa Alexander.
  • Investiagating the impacts of urbanisation on local climates; the parameterization of urban surfaces in regional climate models. Talk to Melissa Hart.
  • A number of projects are available that all study how and on what time scales water moves through the ocean. One such project is around the flow from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean on the southern side of Australia (the so-called Tasman leakage). Talk to Erik van Sebille.
  • Investigating ocean circulation in a Lagrangian framework, using both model and observational velocity fields to compute how water parcels move through the ocean. The trajectories often provide a completely different perspective on ocean circulation, see http://www.youtube.com/user/erikvansebille for a few examples of particle experiments in ocean models. Talk to Erik van Sebille.
  • Investigating the drivers of observed Australian heatwaves, and their future projections from numerical climate models. Talk to Sarah Perkins.
  • The heatwave definition commonly used in Australia consists of two factors, an acclimatisation factor and a significance factor, the combination of which measures whether a collection of days are anomalously hot. Although both components are important in measuring heatwave events, there is little understanding behind which is the dominant factor. This project, suited to an honours student, will explore how both factors contribute to the overall heatwave definition, and how they change on seasonal scales, and in relation to climate change. Talk to Sarah Perkins

  • Reconstruction of past changes in the Southern Hemisphere climate using proxy records; reconstruction of past volcanic activity using ice core records; detection and attribution of the Southern Hemisphere response to climate drivers; assimilation of Southern Hemisphere proxy records into a climate modelling framework. Talk to Steven Phipps.

  • Investigate the influence of soil moisture variability and trends on Australian climate and climate extremes. Compare relevant processes in present climate to projections into the future. The student would learn to handle and visualise big data from multiple climate models and increase the knowledge about land-climate feedbacks over Australia. Talk to Ruth Lorenz.

  • Single column models (SCMs) are a valuable tool to investigate climate feedbacks, which would otherwise be computationally restrictive within a fully coupled global circulation model (GCM). This project will make use of the SCM version of the ACCESS GCM (https://wiki.csiro.au/display/ACCESS/Home) to investigate land-atmosphere feed-backs between CABLE (the land land surface model in ACCESS) and the UM (the atmospheric component of ACCESS), by carrying out  a wide range of parameter sensitivity experiments. The student will gain valuable experience in using Linux/UNIX, compiling code, scripting (NCL and/or Python), as well as gain familiarity with the ACCESS-SCM modeling system. Talk to Jatin Kala.

  • Dynamics, variability and change in the Southern Ocean: Changes in the Southern Ocean are linked with dramatic climate events, yet the associated dynamics are poorly understood. This project will determine the fundamental dynamic processes driving Southern Ocean flows, and diagnose impacts of recent and projected climate change. Talk to Paul Spence.

  • Predictability of Climate Extremes:  Extreme temperature and precipitation events - such as heat waves, droughts and heavy rain - undergo substantial seasonal to decadal variability, but little is known about their predictability. This project will examine variability and predictability of these climatic extremes and associated mechanisms by incorporating decadal hindcast climate model simulations and observational datasets. Talk to Markus Donat.

  • Climate/carbon cycle interactions: During the last glacial/interglacial, there were several episodes of abrupt climate change. As part of this project numerical simulations with Earth System Models will be performed to better understand millennial to centennial changes in climate and their impact on the global carbon cycle. Talk to Laurie Menviel.

  • Ocean eddies, boundary currents and chaos: a number of projects are available to use high-resolution models to study the nonlinear dynamics of ocean currents, the role played by eddies, and the nonlinear interaction between unstable currents and variable atmospheric forcing. Based at UNSW Canberra. Talk to Andrew Kiss.

At the University of Tasmania in ocean sciences:

  • How do eddies impact oceanic carbon cycling? The student will analyze optical data from autonomous profiling floats, surface satellite observations and ship-based CO2 data. There is scope for work at sea. Talk to Peter Strutton.
  • How does El Nino affect the productivity of the tropical Pacific? The student will analyse an existing database of optical measurements from ships. There is scope for also bringing in satellite observations, mooring data and model simulations to work out how and why productivity and air-sea CO2 exchange vary across the Pacific from year to year. Talk to Peter Strutton.

  • Drivers of biological variability in the Indian Ocean. The student will use satellite and mooring data to determine the ocean and atmospheric processes that lead to variability in Indian Ocean productivity. There is scope for work at sea. Talk to Peter Strutton.

  • How do changes in Southern Ocean winds change circulation, productivity and air-sea CO2 exchange? The student will analyse satellite data and could also go to Antarctica to make at-sea measurements, in order to determine the influence of winds on ocean productivity and CO2 fluxes. Talk to Peter Strutton.

  • Internal gravity waves and mixing in the Southern Ocean.  The project will bring together recent observations and numerical simulations of internal waves and turbulence in the Southern Ocean to get a deeper understanding of mixing processes in the ocean interior. Talk to Maxim Nikurashin.

  • Sensitivity of the ocean’s overturning circulation to changes in climate. The project will focus on the sensitivity of the ocean's overturning circulation to changes in forcing conditions across models of different complexity. Talk to Maxim Nikurashin.
  • Velocity structure of remarkable eastward flows in the southeast Indian Ocean. Broad eastward flows that concentrate into jets in places flow across the entire southern Indian Ocean and feed into the Leeuwin Current along Western Australia. Little is known about their dynamics. The student will use data from state of the art EM-APEX profiling floats, and complementary data, to examine the spatial structure and variability of the eastward flows and examine the physical mechanisms controlling them. Talk to Helen Phillips.

  • Investigations of the Leeuwin Undercurrent source waters and pathways. The Leeuwin Current off Western Australia is the only poleward flowing eastern boundary current; it joins a 5500 km long boundary current that flows south of Australia to Tasmania. Beneath the Leeuwin Current is the  northward flowing Leeuwin Undercurrent that is likely fed by Subantarctic Mode Water. The student will use the CARS ocean atlas and the CSIRO/BoM Bluelink model to investigate the source waters and pathways of the elusive Leeuwin Undercurrent. Talk to Helen Phillips.

At the University of Melbourne:

  • Tropical convection and complex coastlines: This project will use high-resolution cloud resolving modelling and available observations to examine the initiation of deep convection by complex coastlines in the tropics, specifically the maritime continent region. The contribution of this coastal initiation to the overall diurnal cycle of precipitation will be examined in detail. This project has specific importance because most classes of models (e.g., NWP and Climate) have significant difficulties reproducing the observed diurnal cycle and improved understanding of the roles of complex coastlines should eventually help improve the representation of clouds and precipitation in larger-scale models. This project will contribute to the ARCCSS tropical convection program and the national maritime continent initiative. Talk to Todd Lane.

  • The organization of deep convection: Understanding the organization of deep convection, i.e., the processes by which convective clouds clump together and become long-lived, is an important fundamental problem that is limiting our ability to properly represent tropical convective clouds in climate models. This project will examine the dynamics that control the ‘self-organisation’ or ‘aggregation’ of tropical convection using a combination of theory, idealised cloud-resolving models, and observations. The project will consider these processes in the context of recent work that has identified the importance of gravity waves in organising convection and controlling its propagation and should offer fundamental new insight into the dynamics of convective clouds. Talk to Todd Lane.

  • Extreme weather and climate events: How much were the chances of the extreme rain events in eastern Australia in 2011 or the extreme heat waves in 2009 affected by climate change and by natural climate variations? Observational data and climate model simulations will be used to assess the different factors affecting the risk of extreme events in Australia.  Talk to David Karoly.
  • Causes of trends in temperature extremes: In Australia, there have been larges increases in hot extremes and decreases in cold extremes over the last 50 years. Different approaches will be used to assess the likely causes from climate model experiments and observational data. Talk to David Karoly.
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