PhD position Earth System Modelling (1.0 FTE)

Hours per week: 
38 to 40
Faculty of Science
Department of Physics, Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht (IMAU)
Application deadline: 

Job description

As humanity does not seems to be on track to reach the Paris goal of limiting global warming to under 2 degrees, the controversial concept of “climate engineering” - large-scale human intervention in the earth system aiming at limiting climate change - is gaining more and more attention. The currently most promising technology is Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI), which involves generating a thin sulphur aerosol layer in the stratosphere to reflect a few percent of the incoming solar radiation. However, SAI would be an imperfect substitute for greenhouse gas emission reduction, and large uncertainties persist regarding both the potential benefits and the environmental dangers. These uncertainties must be reduced before any well-considered decision for or against SAI can be taken.

As the PhD candidate you will work closely with Dr Claudia Wieners (IMAU). You will use the Community Earth System Model (CESM) to investigate the climate impact of climate engineering, especially SAI. The focus will be on the potential benefits of SAI, in particular its ability (or lack thereof) to prevent dangerous climate tipping such as a shut-down of the Gulfstream system. You will analyse model data and design additional model experiments to pinpoint the effect of climate engineering. As climate engineering affects many components of the climate system, there is scope for interaction with different Researchers at IMAU. The Centre for Complex System Studies (CCSS) provides opportunities to place your research into a wider, interdisciplinary context. In addition to your research, 10% of your time will be spent on teaching.


We are looking for a curious and driven candidate who has:

  • a MSc degree or equivalent in climate science or a related field, and a sound knowledge of climate physics;
  • experience with climate modelling, ideally GCMs / ESMs, and in climate data analysis;
  • good programming skills, ideally python. Some knowledge of Fortran may be helpful as well;
  • good communicative skills in English, both in speaking and in writing;
  • an inquisitive mind and eagerness to engage with a societally controversial climate science problem.


  • an opportunity to be part of a team of excellent Researchers who are determined to make a contribution to the issue of climate change;
  • a position for 4 years;
  • a full-time gross salary that starts at €2,395 and increases to €3,061 per month in the fourth year (scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao));
  • benefits including 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the cao for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment yourself via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

More information about working at the Faculty of Science can be found here.

About the organisation

The Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht (IMAU) offers a unique research and teaching environment, in which the fundamentals of the climate system are studied. Research is organized in five themes: Atmospheric Dynamics, Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry, Coastal and Shelf Sea Dynamics, Ice and Climate and Oceans and Climate. In 2017, IMAU research quality and impact were qualified as 'world leading' by an international visitation committee. Currently, IMAU employs 15 faculty members and 10 support staff and some 20 Postdocs and 20 PhD students, and offers a friendly, open and international atmosphere.

At the Faculty of Science there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes which work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.

Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our familiar atmosphere and the can-do attitude of our people. This fundamental connection attracts Researchers, Professors and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the university and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.

Additional information

If you have any questions about this position, please contact Dr Claudia Wieners via

Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, then please respond via the “Apply now” button, enclosing:

  • your letter of motivation;
  • your curriculum vitae;
  • the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two references.

If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone who may be interested, please forward the link to them.

Please note: Due to the current situation regarding the Corona virus (COVID-19) the process of selection and interviews is subject to change. Initial interviews will most likely be conducted online.

Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them

The application deadline is 15 October 2020.