We would like to encourage applications from candidates worldwide wishing to pursue a PhD degree in the field of Climate Theory with an interest in the following research areas; Earth System Modelling, complex mathematics, climate simulation, ocean-atmosphere-land-sea ice processes and tipping point behaviour.

Niels Bohr Institute’s (NBI) section for the Physics of Ice, Climate and Earth (PICE), Faculty of Science at University of Copenhagen is offering two PhD Fellowships, referred to as early-stage researchers (ESR) in Climate Theory, starting between 01.03.2021 and 30.09.2021. PICE studies the elements of the Earth and climate system – the atmosphere, oceans, ice sheets, sea ice, solid Earth, and the interactions between them.

The positions are posted as part of the exciting CriticalEarth project – “Multiscale Critical Transitions in the Earth System – funded through the Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme under Grant number 956170.

You will join a network of 15 PhD Fellows (ESRs), trained to research new methods for assessing the mechanisms and associated risks of critical transitions in the climate. The focus will be on investigating how complex mathematics can be used to predict and avoid irreversible climate change. The position will offer you an excellent background, working within a strong, cross-disciplinary network among leading Universities and research institutions across Europe and with contacts to industry, governmental- and non-governmental institutions.

Project Descriptions:

ESR1: Project Title: Tipping in the past and future climate

Principal supervisor:  Associate Professor Peter Ditlevsen, based at PICE, NBI in Denmark. This PhD project will simulate climate change during the past glacial cycle. The project will use a hierarchy of models to investigate different types of possible climate transitions that the Earth system has experienced during the last glacial cycle. The project will use a suite of Earth System Model (ESM) complexity, as well as a theoretical based dynamical systems approach to determining the nature of the transitional behaviour present in the full range of model complexity.

Secondments for at least 6 months at Complutense University of Madrid (Spain) and University of Exeter (UK) will provide training in ice sheet model interpretation and theoretical development of b-, n- and r-tipping exhibited in the climate model simulations.  

(Application deadline: 31st January 2020)

ESR2: Project Title: Climate response to greenhouse gas forcing

Principal supervisor:  Associate Professor Peter Ditlevsen, based at PICE, NBI in Denmark. The aim of this PhD project is to identify accelerated climate response to greenhouse gas forcing in observations and climate models. The relationship between forcing and response will be investigated. In the paleoclimate the forcing is taken to be determined by the astronomically driven changes in insolation, while the response is the climatic record. In present days’ climate and future projections, the forcing is the measured and prescribed greenhouse gas concentrations, while the response is the observed climate and the climate model projections. The CMIP5 and CMIP6 will be analysed and compared with observations in order to detect accelerated (non-linear) climate response to the greenhouse gas forcing.

A Secondment with Danish Meteorological Institute (Denmark) will provide observational – and CMIP6 archive data. FUB will provide methodology to quantify the response to forcing using dynamical systems.

(Application deadline: 31st January 2020)

Job descriptions for ESR1 and ESR2

The positions are available for a 3-year period and your key tasks as a PhD student at SCIENCE are:

  • To work independently, develop and carry through your research project
  • Attend PhD courses to learn additional skills
  • Write scientific articles and your PhD thesis with support from your supervisors.
  • Teach and disseminate your research, participate in network related and international conferences and workshops
  • To stay at a partner research institution for at least six months to develop new skills
  • Contribute to the everyday activities at the department

Formal requirements for ESR1 and ESR2

Applicants should hold an MSc degree in physics or similar with good results and good English skills. It is not an essential requirement, but any relevant work experience you may have or publications (if any) can also be considered in the assessment.  

Eligibility: Because the aim of  EU ITN projects is to attract candidates from worldwide locations, applicants must not have resided and not have carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the recruiting beneficiary for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date — unless as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention. If you are applying from a location that requires a visa or permit, then we will be able to provide support and advice throughout the process of relocation for you and your family. Feel free to ask us questions in advance if you need more information and reassurance.

The applicant must be an Early Stage Researcher (ESR) i.e. at the time of recruitment she/he must be in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent research experience) of her/his research careers and must not have been awarded a doctoral degree.

Further requirements: CriticalEarth will create an exciting environment for you to learn as PhD Fellows, and candidates should be able to demonstrate enthusiasm for research and a desire to learn new skills. You should also enjoy working independently and as part of a wider network of other students. All fellows must be willing to travel and will be required to complete international secondments.

Application Procedure:

The application, in English, must be submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.

The deadline for applications is 31 January 2021, 23:59 GMT +1.

Please include

  • Cover Letter, stating which PhD project you are applying for and detailing your enthusiasm and background for applying for the specific PhD project.
  • CV with relevant work experience (if any)
  • Diploma and transcripts of records (BSc and MSc)
  • Other information for consideration, e.g. list of publications (if any)
  • 1-3 reference letters (if any)

The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and we welcome applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background. The selection will be exclusively based on qualification without regard to gender identity, sexual orientation religion, national origin or age. Disabled applicants with comparable qualifications will be given preference.

After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the Interview Committee. Afterwards an assessment committee will be appointed to evaluate the selected applications. The applicants will be notified of the composition of the committee and the final selection of a successful candidate will be made by the Head of Department, based on the recommendations of the assessment committee and the interview committee.

The main criterion for selection will be the research potential of the applicant and the above mentioned skills. The successful candidate will then be requested to formally apply for enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD school of Science. You can read more about the recruitment process at https://employment.ku.dk/faculty/recruitment-process/.


For specific information about the PhD scholarship, principal supervisor Peter Ditlevsen, PICE, NBI will be happy to answer your questions and provide advice. Direct Phone: +45 28750603. For further information about Critical Earth please consult the project website www.criticalearth.eu or contact interim project coordinator, Eliza Cook at the University of Copenhagen: elizacook@nbi.ku.dk.

General information about PhD programmes at SCIENCE is available at https://www.science.ku.dk/phd.


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