Using models and measurements to understand the sources of ice-nucleating particles in Arctic clouds

Project Description

This placement offers the opportunity to get involved in an exciting Natural Environment Research Council project M-Phase that is investigating clouds in the Arctic. It involves computer simulations of the atmosphere as well as laboratory experience, and will be co-supervised by a PhD student in the PANORAMA Doctoral Training Partnership.

The broad research topic is ice-nucleating particles and how they affect clouds and climate. In the atmosphere, droplets of pure water do not immediately freeze at temperatures below 0°C. Instead, they are able to supercool to approximately -35°C. For these supercooled water droplets to freeze at temperatures above -35°C, they must contain an ice-nucleating particle (INP). INPs are a rare subset of atmospheric aerosol particles (microscopic particles transported by air), and include mineral dusts, bacteria and sea-spray.

In this project, the student will investigate the geographic source regions of ice-nucleating particles that were measured in two recent airborne field campaigns in the Arctic. The research will involve running an airmass back-trajectory model for each aircraft flight of the campaigns. They will analyse and visualise where the air originated to determine whether the measured variability in INP concentrations can be explained by the air’s recent history. They will hypothesise potential INP sources and present these findings to collaborators in the M-Phase research project. This research has the potential to contribute to an academic paper in development. We will also provide the opportunity to shadow a lab-based researcher investigating INP in order to gain a broader experience of experimental research.

During the project, the student will gain experience of working in an active and welcoming research environment. They will participate in the regular meetings of two active research groups, one that is a modelling group and one that is a fieldwork and laboratory group. This will allow them to see a wide range of research and discuss and present their findings with scientists at various stages of their careers. They will work closely with a Panorama PhD student who will provide technical support and expertise on INP measurements.

This project is suitable for students with an Earth/Environmental Science, Physics or Chemistry background, although applications from students studying other degrees are welcome. Prospective students should have experience in plotting data using a coding language such as Python. A basic understanding of meteorology and the atmosphere from undergraduate teaching would be helpful but is not essential. During the project, the student will develop their computational skills, including the use of Linux systems, high-performance computers and large models. They will also develop their ability to read and understand academic papers, improve their data visualisation and their presentation skills and learn to interpret data when considering research questions.


Erin Raif (3rd year PANORAMA PhD student), Prof. Ken Carslaw, Prof. Ben Murray, Dr. Mark Tarn


Erin Raife

How to Apply

  1. Complete the online REP application form, one for each project of interest, including a copy of your CV.
  2. Complete the EDI form (only one is needed, you do not need to submit more than one if you apply for multiple projects).  Although this is optional, if places are over-subscribed, preference will be given to under-represented groups.