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PhD position

The effect of sudden stratospheric warmings on the variability of the ionosphere

Starting date

1 July 2021

Duration of contract

3 years


According to German TVöD 13

Type of employment


The Institute for Solar-Terrestrial Physics focusses on the observation, investigation and modelling of the near-Earth space weather. Space weather has a decisive influence on the propagation of radio waves, which is used for terrestrial and satellite-based communication as well as for satellite-based navigation. In view of society's growing dependence on the accuracy, availability and reliability of satellite-based radio systems, preventive measures are needed to protect human life and technical systems from the effects of space weather. The observation and modeling of the state of the ionosphere, which are crucial components of these measures, have been carried out at DLR's Neustrelitz site for many years.

Predicting the state of the ionosphere is a major challenge because it is based on complex interactions among others between the middle neutral atmosphere (10-100km) and the ionosphere, which need to be scientifically investigated and described. Especially sudden stratospheric warmings, a dramatic warming of the stratosphere (10-50km) of up to 80K within a few days associated with reversal of the circulation (see figure), can drastically modify the coupling between the middle atmosphere and the thermosphere/ionosphere. These changes can be as severe as those caused by geomagnetic storms and space weather.
Your mission is to study the influence of sudden stratospheric warmings on the variability of the thermosphere/ionosphere especially at mid and high latitudes. The effect on radio wave propagation will also be investigated. To better understand the physical processes, local and global observations as well as model data will be combined.
Your work performance will be 19.25 hours per week. The remuneration is 75% of German TVöD group 13.

Your tasks will include:

  • Researching the literature with the goal of critically evaluating proven and new mathematical methods and making them useful for your own work and deriving possible solutions for your own work
  • Analysis of satellite observations, ionosonde and meteor radar data, reanalysis data, VLF and LF measurements and if necessary further data sets
  • Determination of planetary waves in the middle atmosphere, which were generated in association with a sudden stratospheric warming
  • Determination of ionospheric oscillations with characteristic properties of planetary waves
  • Literature review of current knowledge regarding the association of ionospheric variations with stratospheric warming
  • Investigation of the relationship between planetary waves generated by stratospheric warmings and ionospheric oscillations
  • Characterize the effect of stratospheric warmings on the thermosphere/ionosphere and mid- and high-latitude radio wave propagation and determine the potential to predict it
  • Publication of the results in scientific journals and presentation of the results at national and international conferences

Your qualifications:

  • university degree (master or diploma) in physics, geophysics, meteorology, mathematics, electrical engineering or a comparable subject
  • knowledge in atmospheric physics, especially in the middle and upper atmosphere
  • experience in the evaluation of measurement data and the application of methods from data science to large data sets (preferably with Python or MATLAB)
  • experience in the application of statistical methods
  • good self-organization and a high degree of initiative in dealing with complex technical and scientific problems
  • very good written and spoken English skills

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 unparalleled scope to develop your creative ideas and accomplish your professional objectives. Our human resources policy places great value on a healthy family and work-life-balance as well as equal opportunities for persons of all genders (f/m/x). Individuals with disabilities will be given preferential consideration in the event their qualifications are equivalent to those of other candidates.

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Technical contact

Dr Claudia Borries
Institute for Solar-Terrestrial Physics

Phone: +49 3981 480-215

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Vacancy 56386

HR department Berlin

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DLR site Neustrelitz

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Institute for Solar-Terrestrial Physics

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