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Earth system processes and new perspectives in environmental development

The PhD candidates will study different biological, chemical, physical, mathematical and environmental aspects of climate change and sustainability. The impacts and risks of climate change, including  extreme events, will be investigated.

The candidates will study  key processes and scale interactions of the atmosphere, ocean, land surface and sub-surface, and cryosphere that determine the Earth’s climate.

Multi-disciplinary approaches will be applied to understand the interplay between natural and human processes, and between greenhouse gases and ecosystems. Hierarchies of coupled models will be developed and used to understand the role of different processes in determining the Earth’s climate and its evolution. Observations from conventional and satellite platforms will be leveraged to understand phenomena, and design and diagnose model performance. Observations and model simulations will be applied to disentangle the relative role of natural variability and human activities on the Earth’s climate.

Models will be applied to explore the interaction between global, large-scale, low-frequency phenomena and local, small-scale and high-frequency events (including extremes), and to assess the potential impact of different adaptation and mitigation strategies. In particular, the socio-economic impacts of climate change will be investigated and quantified.

Changes detected in the last decades will be contrasted with changes that occurred in the recent and  very distant past, including the paleo climate, to identify possible similarities and differences, and to help constrain  how  climate could evolve in the future. Changes in surface variables such as temperature, wind and precipitation, both in terms of their average and variability, will be studied. Particular emphasis will be placed on  understanding past and future changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme events, which populate the tails of the probability distribution functions. Sophisticated statistical techniques will be used to analyse available data and extract signals. Probabilistic theory and stochastic calculus will be applied to improve the simulation and propagation of initial (e.g. linked to observations) and model uncertainties.

The impact of climate change on  the land surface and sub-surface, on the ecosystems, and on the energy, water and chemical (carbon, methane) cycles will be investigated. The impact of changes in the concentration of chemical species, in particular of carbon and nitrogen compounds, on the ecosystems will be analysed. Greenhouse gas emissions will be monitored and quantified using observations and data assimilation systems, and numerical experiments will be designed and performed to investigate their propagation, from the local source area to the global region.

The combined analysis of  past and present climates, and the application of multi-disciplinary approaches will help estimating future risks, and identifying the most effective adaptation and mitigation strategies.