Extreme weather in the tropics


Extreme weather in the tropics


Project Description


Professor Adrian Matthews (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia) – Contact me

Dr Ben Webber (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)

Dr Juliane Schwendike (School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds)


Project Background

Extreme weather in the tropics, particularly in the form of heavy rainfall and strong winds, can destroy the lives and livelihoods of the local population through flooding, landslides and impacts on agriculture and local infrastructure.  Such extreme weather in the tropics is primarily controlled by large scale weather patterns such as convectively coupled equatorial Kelvin waves (Figure 1), the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) or El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).  Although the broad features of these tropical weather patterns are known, their impact on extreme weather is not; this represents a major gap in our understanding of tropical weather.

Research methodology

You will determine the effect of tropical weather patterns on extreme weather using a combination of observational analysis, fieldwork and numerical modelling. Initially, this will involve analysis of state-of-the-art satellite data sets that measure rainfall every 30 minutes across the whole planet and wind, temperature and other variables every hour.  You will then analyse model forecast data from the UK Met Office available through the FORSEA (Forecasting in Southeast Asia) project, and conduct sets of experiments with a state-of-the-art atmospheric model to determine what factors generate and influence these tropical waves.

Training and research environment

You will join an active research group at UEA in tropical meteorology and climate.  You will be trained in meteorological and climate theory, and in meteorological analysis of very large data sets, and computer modelling of weather and climate.  You will have the opportunity to present your work at national and international conferences.  There will also be an opportunity to take part in the international TerraMaris field campaign in Indonesia and Christmas Island, Australia, in 2023, led by Prof. Adrian Matthews at UEA, with partners at University of Reading and Leeds, the UK Met Office, and Indonesian agencies.

Person specification

We seek an enthusiastic, pro-active student with strong scientific interests and self-motivation.  You will have a degree in physics, mathematics, meteorology, oceanography or environmental science with good numerical ability.



  • 1) Da Silva NA, Matthews AJ, 2021: Impact of the Madden-Julian oscillation on extreme precipitation over the western Maritime Continent and Southeast Asia. Quart. J. Roy. Meteorol. Soc., 147, 3434-3453, doi: 10.1002/qj.4136.
  • 2) Da Silva NA, Webber BGM, Matthews AJ, Feist MM, Stein THM, Holloway CE, Abdullah MFAB, 2021: Validation of GPM IMERG extreme precipitation in the Maritime Continent by station and radar data. Earth Space Sci., 8, e2021EA001738, doi: 10.1029/2021EA001738.
  • 3) Matthews AJ, Pickup G, Peatman SC, Clews P, Martin J, 2013: The effect of the Madden-Julian Oscillation on station rainfall and river level in the Fly River system, Papua New Guinea. J. Geophys. Res., 118, 10926-10935.
  • 4) Baranowski DB, Flatau MK, Flatau PJ, Karnawati D, Barabasz K, Labuz M, Latos B, Schmidt JM, Paski JAI, Marzuki, 2020: Social-media and newspaper reports reveal large-scale meteorological drivers of floods on Sumatra. Nature Communicat., 11, 2503 , doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-16171-2.
  • 5) Baranowski DB, Flatau MK, Flatau PJ, Matthews AJ, 2016: Phase locking between atmospheric convectively coupled equatorial Kelvin waves and the diurnal cycle of precipitation over the Maritime Continent. Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 8269-8276, doi: 10.1002/2016GL069602.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2022. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 12th January 2022.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£15,609 p.a. for 2021-22) and research funding. International applicants (EU and non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship click on the “Apply now” link below.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.

Applications are open

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