PhD position Regional to global Earth System Modelling (1.0 FTE)

Updated: 29 days ago
Deadline: 31 Oct 2022

Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen has an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative centre of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Balanced study and career paths in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 36,000 students and researchers to develop their own individual talents. Belonging to the best research universities in Europe and joining forces with prestigious partner universities and networks, we are truly an international place of knowledge.

The Faculty of Science and Engineering harbors a kaleidoscope of disciplines and research strengths. Our programs in research and education range from nanomaterials and biomachinery to astronomy, from mathematics to pharmacy, from neurosciences to computer science, and from molecular and evolutionary biology to marine biology.

The Energy and Sustainability Research Institute (ESRIG) is a highly multidisciplinary institute performing research on energy and sustainability. Activities include experimental and model studies as well as studies into the societal interaction with scientific knowledge. The research of the small CIO-Ocean group within ESRIG focuses on primary production in the ocean by microscopic phytoplankton, (polar) climate change by using state-of-the-art global climate models and earth system models, micro-algae and macro-algae (seaweeds), and trace metals and life in the ocean (

The North Sea is a highly productive and heavily exploited continental shelf sea that absorbs significant quantities of atmospheric CO2. But the fate of absorbed CO2 is highly uncertain, in particular the balance between outflow into the Atlantic Ocean and burial in sediments, so we cannot accurately project how this may change in the future. In the NoSE project “The role of the North Sea in the Atlantic Ocean biogeochemical system: North Sea-Atlantic Exchange”, a multidisciplinary consortium of researchers (NIOZ, Delft University of Technology, University of Groningen, Utrecht University, and several international partners) will determine the past, present and future role of the North Sea within the wider biogeochemical system of the Atlantic Ocean. Focusing on the Norwegian Trench, which is both the main outflow route to the Atlantic Ocean and the main place where sediments accumulate within the North Sea, we will investigate the transport and conversion processes that regulate carbon and nutrient exchange between land, shelf sea and open ocean through a combination of oceanographic research expeditions and computer modelling. By linking these results to the paleo-record from seafloor sediments, NoSE will reveal new insights into how the cycling of carbon and nutrients in the North Sea and their exchange with the Atlantic Ocean have varied over the past thousands of years and how they may continue to evolve in the future.

In this PhD-project, the in-house Earth System Model (ESM) EC-Earth (, a state-of-the-art global climate-carbon cycle model will be used to simulate climate (atmosphere, ocean, ice), vegetation, marine biochemistry, ocean primary production, phytoplankton composition, and nutrient distributions. Specifically, the ESM will be improved so as to minimize biases with the regional-scale model. The improved model will then, in the context of the multi-model CMIP6, be applied to make future projections/scenarios of the coupled marine climate-phytoplankton system in the NoSE-North Atlantic region and identify/quantify biochemical feedbacks governing these changes. Using the ESM, the impacts of the NoSE region on the global carbon cycle and ocean carbon storage will be assessed (dissolved CO2 storage and the biological pump), and intermodel differences in order to link these to mechanisms that govern the response quantified. In this way, future carbon cycle changes in the NoSE region in relation to North-Atlantic and global response including uncertainties can be inferred. EC-Earth in the standard resolution is part of CMIP6 (Climate Model Intercomparison Project phase 6); model output from the multi-model ensemble of CMIP6 will be used to assess intermodel uncertainty by comparing EC-Earth results with other models in terms of biases, variability and future projections. In this interdisciplinary project you will work closely together with two postdocs (NIOZ, Texel/Yerseke) who will simulate local and regional processes, as well as with several other PhD candidates and postdocs working on field observations and interpretation.

You will receive excellent training through innovative research projects, advanced courses and training opportunities, complemented by workshops on generic research, transferable skills and teaching. As a PhD candidate, you are committed to conduct independent and original scientific research, to report on this research in international publications and presentations, and to present the results of the research in a PhD dissertation, to be completed within 4 years. You are expected to contribute 10% of the overall workload to teaching. You will be stationed partly at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) in De Bilt, and partly at the University of Groningen.

We are looking for:

  • a motivated, practically skillful candidate
  • a candidate with a MSc degree in climate, physics, marine biochemistry or a related subject
  • a candidate with a background in (climate/carbon) modelling and/or analyses
  • a candidate with experience in processing/analyzing large datasets (this will be considered an asset)
  • a candidate with strong verbal and written communication skills (in English), as well as the ability to work independently and in a (diverse) team.

The successful candidate will be offered, following the Collective Labor Agreement for Dutch Universities:

  • a full-time (1.0 FTE) position for four years
  • a salary of € 2,541 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,247 gross per month in the fourth and final year for a full-time working week
  • a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
  • an 8.3% year-end bonus
  • a position for four years; first, you will get a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years; extension of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year so that successful completion of the PhD thesis within the contract period is to be expected.

A PhD training program is part of the agreement and the candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School of the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Candidates are expected to start on April 1, 2023, at the latest.

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