Dissecting Heatwaves: The Importance of Physical Mechanisms and Human Influence

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Heatwaves negatively impact human health, infrastructure, and natural ecosystems. Observations highlight that the frequency, magnitude and duration of heatwaves are increasing and new discoveries have identified the physical mechanisms that explain these changes. These include how human emissions of carbon dioxide have increased the risk of high-impact heatwaves. To link observations with future risk requires climate models but these lack key heatwave processes. This PhD project will use climate model simulations to examine how sensitive attribution assessments of high-impact heatwaves to human emissions of carbon dioxide are to the representation of key physical processes.

The ideal candidate will have a keen interest in the global impacts of heatwaves, as well as their physical development. They must be enthusiastic about communicating the findings of their research beyond the climate science community to stakeholders and the general public. Innovative methods to successfully communicate their findings to a wide audience are welcomed, inclusive of cross-discipline initiatives. The candidate will work closely with UNSW’s grand challenge on climate change – their scientific findings will support knowledge conveyed by the grand challenge, and they will actively contribute to the public debate around climate change.


The successful candidate will also have a Bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science, maths, physics, or a related field, with a high GPA. They will have either a masters or first class honors degree in a similar field. The candidate will have a demonstrated strong understanding in climate processes, such as modes variability, meteorology, and land surface interactions. They must have some programming experience in analytical languages such as MATLAB, R or Python. A background in model development and/or statistics is desirable but not essential. Students with prior research and/or work experience in climate science will be given priority.

Supervisory team

Climate Change Research Centre
Sen Gupta

Climate Change Research Centre

ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes