Job Properties
  • Job Type
    Full-time Position
  • Category
    Research & Science
  • Languages
  • Experience Required
  • Degree Required
    • Province
    • Date Posted
      December 24,2021
    • Entrusting Package
    • JSS
    • VISA
    • IMG_6430
    • Career Consultation

    PhD position in climate dynamics and earth system modelling

    Concerns are rising that several subsystems of the Earth may respond highly nonlinearly to future levels of anthropogenic forcing from greenhouse gas emissions. These levels are associated with tipping elements such as the Atlantic Ocean circulation, leading to abrupt transitions. As tipping elements are coupled, cascades of abrupt transitions can occur and affect the whole climate system. The mechanisms leading to such cascading behaviour and in particular the physical links between tipping elements are poorly understood. Tipping cascades are high impact events, which urgently need to be understood to estimate the associated societal, economic and environmental risks. This knowledge is also needed to develop emission targets minimizing risks of harmful transitions to undesired states of the Earth system in line with the Paris climate agreement. The aim of this project is to quantify the physical links between specific tipping elements and assess the likelihood of initiating tipping cascades within this century. Our team will identify positive feedbacks between tipping elements that could lower critical atmospheric CO2-levels, and quantify the expected climate response in the presence of cascading tipping behaviour.

    For this PhD position you will work on developing the mathematical theory of coupled tipping elements beyond the basic bifurcation induced tipping. In particular, the aim is to extend the analysis to two-way coupled non-autonomous stochastic systems, where in addition to bifurcation induced tipping noise-induced transitions as well as rate-dependent tipping can occur. Examples of tipping elements to be coupled using conceptual models of each include the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, El Niño-Southern Oscillation and polar ice sheets. Within the team, you will work closely together with a Postdoc who, in this project, will focus on quantifying physical links between different tipping elements. The vacancy for this Postdoc position is posted simultaneously on the website of Utrecht University.

    The project is funded through a NWO-Vici grant to Anna von der Heydt. You will work in a multidisciplinary team on the project objectives using numerical simulation and theory development. We will employ a full climate model hierarchy – from conceptual models to the most complex state-of-the-art climate models – to track cascading tipping behaviour. We also work in collaboration with colleagues from EU-H2020 project TiPES and EU-ITN CriticalEarth, as well as the Centre for Complex Systems Studies at Utrecht University.


    We are looking for an ambitious and driven candidate who has:

    • a MSc in physics, applied mathematics, meteorology, geosciences or a related field;
    • excellent skills in scientific programming and numerical/statistical analysis of simulated and observed data;
    • experience in climate modeling (considered an advantage);
    • basic knowledge of (geophysical) fluid dynamics (considered an advantage).

    Candidates should be able to demonstrate motivation and a strong eagerness to learn, and have the ability to both work independently and as part of a team. Previous research experience will be a distinct advantage.

    • the opportunity to work in and with a team of leading experts;
    • a full-time position for four years;
    • a full-time gross salary that starts at €2,443 and increases to €3,122 per month in the fourth year (scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao));
    • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
    • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

    In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the cao for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment yourself via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

    More information about working at the Faculty of Science can be found here.

    Over de organisatie

    The Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht (IMAU) offers a unique research and teaching environment, in which the fundamentals of the climate system are studied. Research is organized in five themes: Atmospheric Dynamics, Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry, Coastal and Shelf Sea Dynamics, Ice and Climate and Oceans and Climate. In 2017, IMAU research quality and impact were qualified as 'world leading' by an international visitation committee. Currently, IMAU employs 15 faculty members and 10 support staff, and about 20 Postdocs and 30 PhD students, and offers a friendly, open and international atmosphere.

    At the Faculty of Science there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes which work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects. Find out more about us.

    Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our familiar atmosphere and the can-do attitude of our people. This fundamental connection attracts researchers, professors and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the university and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.

    Aanvullende informatie If you have any questions regarding the position, please contact:
    Dr. Anna von der Heydt, via

    Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to
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