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The future of the jet stream and role for extreme European weather

Academic lead
Amanda Maycock​, Earth and Environment
Industrial lead
Steven Hardiman​, ​Met Office​
Stephen Griffiths​, ​Maths​
Project themes
Environmental Flows

Most winter weather extremes in the UK and Europe are driven by the North Atlantic jet stream – a belt of strong winds encircling the globe several kilometres above Earth’s surface. For example, the “Beast from the East” that brought severe wintry weather to the UK in February 2018 was associated with a disrupted jet stream causing cold polar air to penetrate over the UK and Europe (see picture 1). Understanding how the jet stream responds to anthropogenic climate change is crucial for making accurate and informative projections of future regional weather and climate. There is a long-standing knowledge gap from both theory and modelling for how the jet stream is expected to change under climate change. This presents a key source of uncertainty for planners and policy-makers in adapting to future weather and climate extremes. This PhD project will tackle this important topic using a combination of novel analysis methods, observations, simplified dynamical models, and state-of-the-art climate models. We have recently developed a novel feature-identification method to characterise the jet stream using moment analysis. This method yields much greater insight to the jet behaviour than previous approaches. You will apply this technique to state-of-the-art climate model projections for the first time, offering new insights to anticipated future changes in the jet stream. You will use the new framework to explore the idea that current climate models underestimate the response of the North Atlantic jet stream to external forcing, including greenhouse gas emissions, and that future changes may be larger than currently anticipated. By combining diagnostic tools with dynamical theory, you will pursue the goal of constraining uncertainty and providing robust information on future regional climate change. The ideas developed from these underpinning investigations will be tested using climate projections produced by the UK Met Office. You will undertake visits to the Met Office to interact with members of the seasonal-to-decadal prediction group and will have access to Met Office models and datasets to support the research. The project would suit a candidate with a strong mathematical background and an interest in environmental fluid dynamics, climate change and extreme weather. You will develop advanced programming and modelling skills, learn new statistical methods and gain an excellent knowledge of atmospheric dynamics. Full training in modelling and data analysis will be provided.  

 Examples of European extreme winter conditions related to the jet stream.