1 PhD Fellow Position (3-year) available in the field of climate extremes at the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium.

This position is part of the EDIPI project – a Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Innovative Training Network (ITN).


We would like to encourage applications from candidates worldwide wishing to pursue a PhD degree in theoretical/computational physics in the field of climate extremes.

The Dynamical Meteorology and Climatology Unit of the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium (RMIB) is offering a PhD Fellowship, referred to as early-stage researcher (ESR) in climate extremes, starting between 01.03.2021 and 30.09.2021, with preferences to start in September 2021. The Unit is investigating the variability and predictability of atmospheric (and climate) processes by developing and using tools coming from the dynamical systems theory, chaos theory and stochastic processes.

The position is advertised as part of the project EDIPI, European weather Extremes: DrIvers, Predictability and Impacts, funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 956396. The project will start in March 2021.

The successful candidate will join a network of 14 PhD Fellows (ESRs), pursuing their research training on the dynamics, predictability and impacts of temperature, precipitation (including drought) and surface wind extremes over Europe. The three overarching scientific questions that will be tackled are: Why does a specific type of weather extreme occur? How can we use this knowledge to better predict it? And finally, what are the likely impacts once it does occur?


Project Description:



Project Title:

investigation of extreme climate instabilities


Principal supervisor:  Dr Stéphane Vannitsem, Senior Researcher at the RMIB and lecturer at the Free University of Brussels.


Promotor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB): Professor Thomas Gilbert


The project will leverage a recent approach – covariant vectors – applying it to a hierarchy of coupled climate models. In the first phase, the PhD candidate will investigate covariant vectors in a hierarchy of coupled ocean-atmosphere systems (using the Modular Arbitrary Order Ocean Atmosphere Model, MAOOAM), and elucidate the impact of low-frequency variability and transitions between climate states on the properties of these vectors. Building on the first phase, the candidate will then investigate the properties of background flows leading to extreme instability, as defined by the covariant vectors, in the same model hierarchy. The dynamical (and geometric) properties of the covariant vectors associated with these extreme situations will also be analysed.


The relation between the energetics of the solutions of the models and the instability properties will be explored, with emphasis on the extremely unstable or stable states. This approach will specifically be applied to extreme wind speed, which can be effectively emulated in the MAOOAM system. The candidate will leverage tools from dynamical systems theory and large deviation theory. Under climate change, the (short-to medium-range) predictability properties of the flow may vary. The candidate will investigate extensively the effect of the climate change on the instability properties of the flow, using concepts such as Snapshot and Pullback attractors. The impact on the extremal instability properties and on extreme wind speed episodes will also be investigated. This work will again use a hierarchy of MAOOAM simulations, in which the radiative response of the atmosphere will be modified, and also in more realistic climate models.


Secondments for at least 6 months at Tel Aviv University (Israël) and at the LSCE (France) will provide training on instanton theory, and applications of dynamical systems tools to observed data and state-of-the-art climate models, respectively.  


Job description

The position is available for a 3-year period and the key tasks as a PhD candidate at RMIB are:

  • To work independently, develop and carry through your research project
  • Comply with the PhD training program at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Brussels, Belgium)
  • Write scientific articles and your PhD thesis with support from your supervisors.
  • Disseminate your research, participate in network related and international conferences and workshops
  • To stay at a partner research institution for at least six months to develop new skills
  • Contribute to the everyday activities at the RMIB


Formal requirements

Applicants should hold an MSc degree in physics or similar with outstanding background results, as well as display good English skills. While not an essential requirement, any relevant work experience or scientific publications (if any) will be taken into consideration. Background on dynamical systems and chaos theory is also an asset.   

Eligibility: Because the aim of  EU ITN projects is to attract candidates from worldwide locations, applicantsmust not have resided and not have carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the recruiting beneficiary for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date — unless as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention (1). If you are applying from a location that requires a visa or permit, then we will be able to provide support and advice throughout the process of relocation for you and your family. Feel free to ask us questions in advance if you need more information and reassurance.


The applicant must be an Early Stage Researcher (ESR) i.e. at the time of recruitment she/he must be in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent research experience) (2) of her/his research career and must not have been awarded a doctoral degree.


Further requirements: EDIPI will create an exciting environment for you to learn as PhD fellows. Candidates should be able to demonstrate enthusiasm for research and a desire to learn new skills. You should also enjoy working independently and as part of a wider network among other fellows. All fellows must be willing to travel and will be required to complete international secondments.


Application Procedure:

The application, in English, must be submitted electronically to Dr Stéphane Vannitsem (Stephane.Vannitsem@meteo.be).

The deadline for applications is 15 May 2021, 23:59 CET.

Please include

  • Cover Letter, stating which PhD project you are applying for and detailing your enthusiasm and background for applying for the specific PhD project.
  • CV with relevant work experience (if any)
  • Diploma and transcripts of records (BSc and MSc)
  • Other information for consideration, e.g. list of publications (if any)
  • A list of 3 reference names


The Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and we welcome applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background. The selection will be exclusively based on qualification without regard to gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin or age.

Questions and queries

Further information about the PhD scholarship can be obtained from Stéphane Vannitsem (Stephane.Vannitsem@meteo.be). The candidates are encouraged to visit the project website https://edipi-itn.eu/vacancies/

General information about PhD programmes at ULB is available at https://www.ulb.be/en/phd/phd-programmes


(1)1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol
(2) This is measured from the date when a researcher obtained the degree which would formally entitle him or her to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited, irrespective of whether or not a doctorate is or was ever envisaged.



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