Training the next generation of mathematical climate scientists

Mathematics is at the core of many breakthroughs in climate science, including understanding the impacts of events such as flooding on society.

The National Oceanography Centre (NOC) has been announced as a major partner in a new £16 million centre for doctoral training (CDT).

The Mathematics for our Future Climate CDT is led by Imperial College London and includes the University of Southampton and the University of Reading, plus other external partners across the UK and internationally.

Partners bring expertise spanning the areas of ocean, weather and climate, in academic and government institutions and across a wide range of industries.

Climate change remains one of the biggest challenges to global society. Advanced mathematical approaches are needed, arguably now more than ever, as these are central to improving our understanding and prediction of climate change.

Mathematical climate scientists help to answer key questions including how impacts of climate change such as extreme flooding, rapid ice melting, storms, droughts, wildfires, and ecosystem change, will affect us individually and collectively.

Mathematics is at the core of many major breakthroughs in climate science, bringing new conceptual understanding of a complex processes or a practical solution to estimate something about the climate system, either past, present, or future.

For example, discovery of mathematical theories during the 1960s to 1980s, linked to chaotic systems, explained why some aspects of climate are unpredictable, while others are more predictable.

These breakthroughs also provided a new conceptual understanding, simplifying the overall puzzle, and allowing climate scientists to optimise the design of experiments used in reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

More advances, both incremental and fundamental, are needed and are enabled through collaboration.

The Mathematics for our Future Climate CDT will train graduates with strong mathematics, physics and engineering backgrounds, focusing on four areas:

Fundamental mathematical advances needed to understand and anticipate the climate crisis, and to quantify and mitigate the risks associated with extreme events and cascading impacts of a changing climate.

Methods needed to exploit large-scale computing and big data.

Solutions to tackle climate change, enhance sustainability, and ensure economic prosperity and fairness by optimising the effectiveness of renewable energy and the trade-off between mitigation and adaptation actions.

Tools to enable transparent, accessible, scalable, user-relevant and user-friendly analysis of real-time data.

This new CDT forms part of a £1 billion investment into 65 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) CDTs, announced recently, with almost half of the total funding provided as financial and in-kind support from business partners, public sector and charity partners.

More information, including the Ph.D. studentship projects for an October 2024 start, can be found here.

The Mathematics for our Future Climate CDT is led overall by Prof. Dan Crisan, Dept. of Mathematics at Imperial College London. The leads at the other universities involved are Prof. Alberto Naveira Garabato (University of Southampton) and Prof. Jennifer Scott (University of Reading).

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