MSc and PhD projects on Southern Ocean climate change and variability


Several MSc and PhD studentships, funded by the NRF SANAP programme, are available from February 2018 in the Department of Oceanography at UCT to work on climate change and variability in the Southern Ocean and its impacts on South African climate. A particular focus concerns the ongoing droughts in the Western Cape and parts of the Eastern Cape.

Specific MSc and PhD projects will be tailored according to individual student interest but need to broadly fit one of the following:

1. Investigate the mean state of the Southern Ocean and the overlying atmosphere in the Atlantic sector, its seasonal cycle, its interannual and interdecadal climate variability and climate change over the last century or so. Focus will be placed on ocean variables that influence the development of weather systems such as sea surface temperature (SST), upper ocean heat content, sea-ice extent and Southern Ocean fronts, and their interaction with the overlying atmosphere through changes in the winds and surface heat fluxes.

2. Apply regional ocean and atmosphere models (ROMS and WRF) to understand i) the role of SST and sea-ice patterns on influencing extra-tropical cyclone generation and cold front intensification for systems approaching South Africa, ii) the impact of subsurface heat content and ocean frontal distributions in the Southern Ocean on extra-tropical cyclone variability, and iii) the impact of changing winds and surface heat fluxes on ocean fronts, eddies and upper ocean characteristics.

3. Understand the physical mechanisms used by global climate models to simulate climate change in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean and to assess the credibility of these mechanisms. Assess the uncertainty in climate projections associated with these models

4. Build a climatology of extra-tropical cyclones and associated cold fronts (genesis location, track, intensity, etc.) in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. This work is then followed by investigating the key features behind the variability of these extra-tropical cyclones and relating it to the rainfall during the core winter months as well as during the transition seasons (autumn and spring). Assess the influences of large scale climate modes such as ENSO and the Southern Annular Mode on storm activity and regional rainfall.

Students with a background in Ocean Sciences, Atmospheric Science, Climate, Earth Sciences, Physics or Applied Mathematics or related fields are encouraged to apply.  An interest in numerical modelling and experience in analysing large data sets would be an advantage.

To apply, please send your CV and academic transcripts to Prof Chris Reason