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Modelling extreme magnetosphere-atmosphere interactions


Supervisors: Dr Ravindra Desai, Dr Dimitri Veras, Prof. Natasha Jackson-Booth


Extreme Space Weather is driven by large-scale eruptions from the Sun called coronal mass ejections. Upon arrival at the Earth, these produce amazing auroral displays but also endanger satellites and disrupt communication signals. Accurately modelling magnetosphere-atmosphere energy transfers is important to understanding the evolution of planetary atmospheres as well as developing real-world space weather forecasts. Through collaboration with QinetiQ, this project will develop state-of-the-art plasma simulations to probe magnetosphere-atmosphere interactions during solar storms, with application to characterising their technological impacts as well as to understanding Earth-like exoplanets subjected to more extreme star-planet interactions.


Usually magnetospheric and atmospheric research efforts are treated in isolation. This project will be novel by combining a leading global magnetospheric model with a state-of-the-art general circulation model to study energy and momentum transfers through the tightly coupled system.

This approach promises to holistically capture the multi-scale nature of current systems heating the upper atmosphere, including through a phenomenon known as Joule Heating which was implicated in the loss of over 40 Starlink satellites in February 2022.

This multi-disciplinary endeavour will examine Space Weather events observed across the Space Age, as well as upcoming events during Solar Cycle 25. Through collaboration with QinetiQ and access to unique datasets, this project will develop the computational and statistical capabilities to understand and model magnetospheric and atmospheric dynamics subjected to rarely observed, extreme conditions.

This research effort also forms part of a new space mission concept led by the University of Warwick called ROARS (Revealing Orbital and Atmospheric Responses to Solar activity), recently selected by the European Space Agency. The ROARS consortium features leading scientists and institutions from across Europe, North America and Africa.


This project brings together expertise from the Warwick Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics and Astronomy Group. The taught HetSys programme (PX911 multiscale simulations, PX917 computational plasma physics, and PX913 research software engineering), and Imperial-Oxford-Warwick Centre for Postgraduate Training in Plasma Physics, will provide the perfect foundation for tackling this ambitious research project.

The advanced numerical models will need to be developed and implemented on Warwick and national High-Performance-Computing systems and the applicant will be guided to develop the required high level of research software engineering skills.

Informal enquiries to discuss the project are welcome and can be addressed to:

Are you interesting in applying for this project? Head over to our Study with Us page for information on the application process, funding, and the HetSys training programme

At the University of Warwick, we strongly value equity, diversity and inclusion, and HetSys will provide a healthy working environment, dedicated to outstanding scientific guidance, mentorship and personal development.

HetSys is proud to be a part of the Physics Department which holds an Athena SWAN Silver award, a national initiative to promote gender equality for all staff and students. The Physics Department is also a Juno Champion, which is an award from the Institute of Physics to recognise our efforts to address the under-representation of women in university physics and to encourage better practice for both women and men.