PhD position

Earth System Model Evaluation with Observations to Constrain Future Climate Projections

Starting date

19 June 2017

Duration of contract

3 years


according to German TVöD 13/2

Type of employment


Your mission:

The evaluation of Earth system models (ESMs) with observations is crucial for model improvements and an improved process understanding of the climate system. It is also a vital prerequisite for more trustworthy climate projections to be used as guidelines for climate policy. While considerable progress has been made in ESM evaluation, the ESM community has fallen short of providing ensemble projections of future climate that go beyond ‘model democracy’ (i.e., treating all models as equally likely to be true). In part, this is because metrics used to evaluate model simulations of the current climate have rarely been shown to be relevant to details of future projections. So-called emergent constraints provide a promising means to advance significantly beyond this current state, as they identify aspects of current climate that are most relevant to future projections. The goal of the thesis is to develop new methods towards more objectively weighted projections of climate change based on emergent constraints, and to quantify uncertainties in the resulting ensemble projections taking into account model performance and interdependence. The results will be valuable for guiding the design of future ensembles, e.g., how many and which models are needed to maximize information at minimal computational cost. They are expected to contribute to the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) and the next IPCC Assessment Report.

At the DLR Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IPA) we provide excellent facilities with opportunities to work with world-renowned experts in the field of Earth system modelling and observations.The PhD student will be part of the Earth System Model Evaluation (ESMVal) group at IPA that is assessing the performance of climate models through an in-depth comparison of models with observations. The group is strongly linked to international research activities within the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and participates in several national and international projects related to the topic of the thesis. The PhD thesis is also embedded into the EU Horizon 2020 project Coordinated Research in Earth Systems and Climate: Experiments, kNowledge, Dissemination and Outreach (CRESCENDO) that brings together leading ESM groups in Europe offering a multitude of possibilities for international cooperation. The work will be done in close collaboration with Prof Reto Knutti from the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science at ETH Zurich and includes the possibility of shorter research stays at ETH.


  • assessing multi-variate relationships between different simulated parameters, at suitable temporal and spatial scales, against similar relationships derived from observations
  • using these results to constrain Earth system sensitivities
  • developing and employing statistical techniques in which prior distributions of model simulations are weighted by their ability to reproduce observed present-day climatological states, variability, and trends in order to produce posterior predictive distributions of climate variables
  • contributing to ongoing ESM developments by evaluating the next generation of ESMs, identifying potential deficiencies and hence guiding further model development

Your qualifications:

  • Master/diploma or equivalent degree in physics, meteorology or atmospheric sciences
  • fluency in English (written and spoken)
  • excellent analytical skills, and the ability to work both, independently and as part of a team
  • good programming skills, preferably with experience in high performance computing and with data analysis tools (such as NCL, Python, etc)
  • enthusiasm, motivation and creativity
  • experience in Earth system modelling and climate science is an advantage
  • basic knowledge in data analysis and visualization is desirable

Your benefits:

Look forward to a fulfilling job with an employer who appreciates your commitment and supports your personal and professional development. Our unique infrastructure offers you a working environment in which you have unparalled scope to develop your creative ideas and accomplish your professional objectives. We are striving to increase the proportion of female employees and therefore particularly welcome applications from women. Disabled applicants with equivalent qualifications will be given preferential treatment.

Technical contact

PD Dr.rer.nat. Veronika Eyring
Institute of Atmospheric Physics

Phone: +49 8153 28-2533

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HR department Oberpfaffenhofen

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