Professor Adrian Matthews School of Environmental Sciences and School of Mathematics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

Research group
PhD projects

MJO introduction
Current MJO forecast
MJO forecast method
MJO forecast validation
MJO forecast archive
MJO EMD archive
Other MJO forecasts

Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences

PhD Projects

I have two PhD projects starting in October 2017. Full funding (fees and maintenance grant) is available to UK applicants, and fees-only funding is available to EU citizens.

Additionally, I always welcome enquiries from potential PhD students, particularly from applicants with external funding; recent PhD students have been funded by Commonwealth University fellowships, the Ford Foundation and studentships from their home countries.

A synopsis of the two funded PhD projects is below. Further details and online application can be found by following the links.

Note the application deadline is 8 January 2017.

Optimising ocean gliders for near-surface measurements

Project Rationale

The detailed vertical structure of the ocean near its surface has a major impact on how the ocean exchanges heat and momentum with the atmosphere, which then affects weather and climate. However, this near-surface structure is difficult to measure accurately with conventional oceanographic observations.

The recent proliferation in the use of ocean gliders has provided a potential new data source of these near-surface measurements. Gliders are ideally suited to measure near-surface ocean characteristics, as they are streamlined and free flying, and do not disturb the delicate near-surface structures they are attempting to measure. For example, recent glider observations in the Indian Ocean have revealed the detailed structures of diurnally formed surface warm layers in the upper few metres of the ocean. However, gliders are normally ballasted and optimised for flight at mid-depths.

Together with the standard parameters used for surface manoeuvres at the beginning and end of each dive, the glider flight characteristics are sub-optimal for obtaining the best possible near-surface measurements. This project will investigate the effect of optimising glider flight characteristics on the quality of near-surface measurements.


The student will liaise with all glider missions run out of UEA and SAMS during the project. Once each glider is correctly trimmed and is gathering high quality data, a small number of dives will be used to evaluate the improvement in near-surface data to changes in a number of glider flight parameters (associated with general flight and near-surface manoeuvres). A glider mission typically generates 500-1000 dives, so this will not be detrimental to the overall mission.

The student will also be part of the piloting team in each of these missions. In parallel, the student will use the large data base of glider dives already generated by the UEA and SAMS glider groups, to evaluate the effect of glider flight parameter changes on near-surface data quality from historical missions. A set of recommendations will be developed, to optimise both near-surface measurements but at minimal cost to the quality of deeper measurements. The science questions to be addressed are the formation of surface diurnal warm layers, barrier layers, and near-surface mixing processes, and their impact on ocean-atmosphere fluxes.


The NEXUSS CDT provides state-of-the-art, highly experiential training in the application and development of cutting-edge Smart and Autonomous Observing Systems for the environmental sciences, alongside comprehensive personal and professional development. There will be extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial / government / policy partners.

The student will be registered and hosted in the Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (COAS) at UEA in Norwich but will spend time based at SAMS in Oban working with engineers to share best practice for glider operations. Specific training will include:

  • ocean glider piloting, operation, and data analysis
  • oceanography, ocean dynamics, ocean physics
  • computing and processing of large data sets
  • seagoing and marine data collection skills
  • use of glider hydrodynamical models use for optimising glider flight characteristics and near-surface measurements.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the NEXUSS Centre for Doctoral Training. Successful candidates who meet RCUK's eligibility criteria will be awarded a 3 year 8 month NERC studentship, inclusive of Home/EU fees and funding to support research training. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. In 2016/17, the stipend was £14,296.

Apply online at

The maritime continent: Breaking the tropical barrier to global weather and climate prediction

Scientific background

Global weather and climate patterns are strongly controlled from the tropics. For example, the extreme wet, mild winter in the UK of 2013/14 has been linked to weather activity in the "tropical warm pool", the region of very warm ocean that extends from the Indian Ocean eastwards into the western Pacific. The main weather system responsible for these effects is the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO; At the heart of the warm pool lies the maritime continent, a complex archipelago of large and small islands that includes the countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea. These islands act as a physical barrier to weather systems in the region. For example, some MJO weather systems succeed in crossing the maritime continent, while others do not. The effects on subsequent global weather development can be very different between these two cases.

Research methodology

You will determine the atmospheric and oceanic processes that control the maritime continent barrier in climate and weather. This will be achieved by analysis of state-of-the-art high-resolution global observational data sets, and experiments with global climate models.

Training and research environment

You will join an active research group at UEA in tropical meteorology, oceanography and climate, and will collaborate with the tropical and global meteorology group at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (Climate) at University of Reading. You will be trained in meteorological, oceanographical and climate theory, and in the theoretical and practical aspects of climate analysis of very large data sets (substantial in-house training, and a python Climate Data Analysis Tools (CDAT) training workshop), and computer modelling of weather and climate (MetUM training workshop). You will have the opportunity to present your work at an international conference.

Is this project right for you?

We seek an enthusiastic, pro-active student with strong scientific interests and self-motivation. You will have at least a 2.1 honours degree in physics, mathematics, meteorology, oceanography or environmental science with good numerical ability. Experience of a programming language such as python or matlab will be advantageous. This project will suit an applicant intending to start a scientific career in meteorology, oceanography or climate science.


This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with twenty other research partners.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 14/15 February 2017.

Successful candidates who meet RCUK's eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. In 2016/17, the stipend was £14,296.

For further information, please visit

Created: Tue May 23 02:02:12 2017