EPSRC CENTRE FOR DOCTORAL TRAINING IN THE MATHEMATICS OF PLANET EARTH AT IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON AND THE UNIVERSITY OF READING

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Mathematics

Abstract

Our environment has a major influence on all aspects of human endeavour ranging from the mundane, such as deciding whether to cycle or take the bus to work, to the exceptional, such as coping with the ever more damaging effects of extreme natural phenomena (tropical storms, inundations, tsunamis, droughts, etc.). In addition, climate change is one of the most pressing challenges that confront humanity today.

What was once viewed as something that might happen in the future is now part of daily life. Because most impacts of climate variability and change occur through extreme weather events and spells, the two issues of weather and climate are closely interlinked. We rely on science and technology to provide the means of managing the complex intricacies of the environment and to meet the pressing challenges of climate change. Mathematics plays a central role in this massive undertaking as it provides the fundamental basis of the theory and modelling of weather, oceans and climate. However the nature of the mathematical challenges is changing and the need for scientists trained in risk and uncertainty is growing rapidly. Meeting these needs can only be achieved by training an entirely new generation of scientists to meet the multi-faceted challenges, with all their complex inter-dependencies. These scientists will need extraordinarily broad training in several scientific areas, including geophysical fluid dynamics, scientific computing, statistics, data assimilation and partial differential equations. Above all, they must understand the mathematics that unifies them.

The alignment of Imperial College's Mathematics Department and Grantham Institute for Climate Change with Reading University's Departments of Mathematics and Statistics and of Meteorology has put these two institutions into a unique position to offer a CDT focussing on the priority area: Mathematical Sciences for Weather, Ocean and Climate, as a 50-50 joint venture. We propose to bring together, as academic supervisors and stakeholders in the centre, more than 60 world-leading researchers with expertise in a wide spectrum of areas that comprise the mathematical foundation as well as the frontier application areas.

The central aim of the proposal is to build a strong cohort of young scientists whose backgrounds will span the breadth of the mathematical sciences from statistics, PDEs and dynamical systems, scientific computing, data analysis, and stochastic processes including relevant application areas from weather, oceans and climate. These young scientists must also acquire problem-specific knowledge through an array of elective courses and supervisory expertise offered by the two institutions and the external partners. A core component of the cohort training will be a ten-week programme hosted by the Met Office in Exeter which will include lectures given by world-leading scientists and research internships with Met Office staff, tackling real-world projects by teamwork.

Key partners to the proposed CDT include major international players in research and operational forecasting for weather, oceans, and climate, including the UK Met Office, the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts, the German DWD, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and the National Centre for Earth Observation. The EPSRC contribution to the Centre will be heavily leveraged with institutional and external partners, whose financial commitments are estimated to cover 65% of the total costs.

The proposal is also in alignment with the global initiative Mathematics of the Planet Earth 2013 which involves scientific societies, universities, institutes and organizations all over the world aiming to learn more about the challenges faced by our planet and to increase the research effort on these issues.

Planned Impact

Impact will be realized in two ways: by research done as part of the training, and by the student cohort itself.

RESEARCH: The Centre will bring together two traditionally separate domains of mathematics: the "data driven" domain, represented by statistics (including time series analysis and data assimilation), and the "model driven" domain, represented
by analysis (including fluid dynamics and dynamical systems). By connecting with and through weather, oceans and climate research into application areas, the research will have a strong interdisciplinary component. Because most impacts of climate variability and change occur through extreme weather events and spells, our approach of studying weather and climate together, with a seamless transition from one to the other, will bring fundamental new insights. Through our international academic partnerships these advances will be spread globally. Weather, oceans and climate is not the only application area grossly under-constrained by data, so the novel mathematics developed here will have downstream implications, with multidisciplinary benefit.

COHORT: Those trained in the Centre will represent a "new breed" of mathematical scientist able to work across the above traditional disciplinary divide and possessing transferable skills such as team-building, management, leadership, and communication. They will take up positions in academia, research centres, government departments and the private sector and will apply their skills to pressing societal needs. Their influence will extend beyond the weather, oceans and climate area into the wider arena, both in the UK and worldwide.

ACADEMIA will benefit from overall advancement of an inter-disciplinary area of research. On the near term, this will occur through the new partnerships developed within the Centre. In addition, our summer schools and other training activities will be open to outside students. On the longer term, the research will inspire follow-on projects and some of the students will take up positions within academia, strengthening the research base through their enhanced skills. Moreover the entire cohort will continue their collaboration across institutional and national borders.

The PUBLIC SECTOR will benefit on both the near- and longer-term from improved tools for operational services and evidence-based policy-making and decision-making, ranging from weather forecasting to projections of climate variability
and change, and including impacts on energy and the environment. To this end, key partners in weather, oceans and climate services are engaged both within the UK (Met Office) and Europe (ECMWF and DWD). A broader network of public-sector beneficiaries (e.g. DEFRA and DECC), especially for risk assessment, will be served through the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College and other intermediaries such as the Walker Institute at Reading. The researchers trained by the Centre will possess highly relevant skills for these public sector bodies.

The COMMERCIAL PRIVATE SECTOR will benefit from improved quantitative knowledge of environmental uncertainty and risk in a number of economically and societally important areas, such as energy, reinsurance, water resources, civil
engineering, retail, and agriculture. Specific examples are included in the Case of Support. This benefit will occur in the near-term and will provide a competitive advantage to the UK. The researchers trained by the Centre will possess highly relevant skills for the private sector in the general area of data-model fusion, in addition to areas relating specifically to weather, oceans and climate.

The GENERAL PUBLIC will benefit from improved public services and economic well-being. The detrimental effects of severe weather and climate change pose a major societal threat with significant economic impacts.

Publications

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