PhD position: How do atmospheric fluctuations stir the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation?

This job offer has expired

    NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
    Environmental scienceEarth science
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    31/10/2021 00:00 - Europe/Brussels
    Netherlands › 't Horntje


This vacancy is the result of the collaboration between Utrecht University and NIOZ. The Department of Ocean Systems (OCS) at NIOZ (Texel) and the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research, Utrecht (UU) are looking for a PhD candidate with a strong interest in oceanographic measurements and modelling. The candidate should hold a master degree in climate science or a related subject. Experience with climate modelling and data analysis is a plus.

VACANCY ID:              2021-52
CLOSING DATE           October 31st, 2021.

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 mentality of our people. This lively and inspiring academic environment attracts professors, researchers and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the University and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international community and wonderfully diverse.

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.

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.

NIOZ is the national oceanographic institute and principally performs academically excellent multidisciplinary fundamental and frontier applied marine research addressing important scientific and societal questions pertinent to the functioning of oceans and seas. Second, NIOZ serves as national marine research facilitator (NMF) for The Netherlands scientific community. Third, NIOZ stimulates and supports multidisciplinary fundamental and frontier applied marine research, education and marine policy development in the national and international context.

Researchers in the Department of Ocean System Research (OCS) study open-ocean processes and aquatic ecosystems from a variety of disciplines including physical and chemical oceanography, marine geology, paleoceanography, and deep-sea ecology. We investigate the past and present ocean to assess its future role in the Earth system. We collect data during oceanographic research cruises and conduct experiments both at sea and in the laboratory at our home base on Texel. The department carries out work in diverse environments all around the globe, from the Antarctic to the Arctic, and from the Caribbean to the North Sea.


The large-scale Atlantic Ocean circulation, also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), is a key component of the climate system. In the upper ocean the AMOC transports warm, saline tropical waters northward. At higher latitudes these waters are transformed to dense waters, which return southward in the deep ocean. Amongst other things, the AMOC plays a role in oceanic CO2 uptake and ensures that Northern Europe has a mild climate. There are concerns that the AMOC may weaken or collapse under global warming as a result of reduced water mass transformation.

However, the AMOC also shows considerable variability at time scales of weeks to years, which is assumed to be largely driven by atmospheric forcing fluctuations (wind, heat flux, freshwater flux). If large enough, these fluctuations can potentially “kick” the AMOC out of its current strong state and into an alternate, weaker, AMOC state.

As the PhD student, you investigate how atmospheric fluctuations affect AMOC variability, particularly in the North Atlantic transformation regions. For this, you will combine two tools: in situ observations and a high-resolution ocean model. The most important observational data will be the Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program dataset (OSNAP; co-led by NIOZ). You will participate in two research cruises (summer 2022 and 2024) and contribute to curating the data.

The high resolution ocean model, POP, will be compared against the observational data and used for a suite of model experiments to investigate the impact of certain atmospheric phenomena on AMOC variability. 

The project will be jointly led by dr. Femke de Jong (NIOZ), who will supervise the observational work, and dr. Claudia Wieners (UU), who will supervise the modelling experiments. As the PhD student, you will work both at NIOZ-Texel and at Utrecht University. 

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

  • An MSc or equivalent in climate science or a related field, and a sound knowledge of climate physics
  • Experience with analysing climate data (observational or model output)
  • Good programming skills, ideally python or matlab. Some knowledge of Fortran may be useful as well
  • Able and willing to join fieldwork at sea for up to 6 weeks in summer
  • Good communication skills in written and spoken English
  • An inquisitive mind and eagerness to apply different research tools to an intriguing ocean science problem.

We highly encourage applicants from all members of our community and of diverse background,  including LGBTIQ+ communities, to join us.

Employment of this position at Royal NIOZ is by NWO (The Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research). We offer a position for a period of 1 year (fulltime). At the end of this first year, the employment will be extended for a fixed-term of a maximum of 4 years, if the first year evaluation held with the employee is positive. The salary is compliant to the CAO-OI (Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Research Institutes), a pension scheme, a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, a year-end bonus of 8,3%, flexible work arrangements and arrangements and 42 days of holiday leave (fulltime position).

You may expect attractive secondary employment conditions. We offer generous relocation expenses for employees coming from abroad and support with finding accommodation.

For additional information about this vacancy, please contact dr. Femke de Jong or dr. Claudia Wieners. For additional information about the procedure, please contact  Sigrid Moerbeek (senior HR advisor).

For more information about the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research, Utrecht, at Utrecht University, see here; for more information about the Department of Ocean Systems at NIOZ, see here.

Find more information about the UU-NIOZ projects here.

More Information

Web site for additional job details

Required Research Experiences

    Environmental science
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Work location(s)
1 position(s) available at
NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
't Horntje
1797 SZ
Landsdiep 4

EURAXESS offer ID: 693618
Posting organisation offer ID: 164271


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