Funded PhD project on the measurement of terrestrial snow using a space-based instrument suite

Funded PhD project on the measurement of terrestrial snow using a space-based instrument suite
Department of Geography & Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Canada

We invite applications for a PhD position in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo, Canada. This position is part of a three-year collaborative research project with Environment and Climate Change Canada and the University of Toronto, recently funded by the Canadian Space Agency, to investigate the use of space-based instruments to quantify snowfall and snow cover over land and sea ice. The anticipated start date for the position is September 2017.

Project background and scope of work
In an era of rapid changes to snow processes, such as rapidly retreating snow margins, thinning snow on sea ice, and changes to the character of cold-region precipitation, incorporation of accurate observational data related to snow processes into Earth System Models (ESMs) has become more critical for advancing quantitative prediction of climate variability and change.

This project focuses on Canada’s Arctic and SubArctic, and uses data from the Cloud Profiling Radar Instrument of the NASA/CSA CloudSat Satellite (launched in 2006), to which Canada is contributing significantly.  The successful candidate will work to characterize space-based observations of snow falling on land, using a diverse range of available atmospheric and surface-derived measurement products. This novel application of observational data will then be applied toward our longer-term goal of improving the representation of snow, and snow-processes, in Earth System Models (ESMs).

The candidate will first characterize the uncertainty of snowfall measurements over land, using observational networks principally located within Canada, to distinguish between snowfall in the atmosphere and snow on land. Next, a process based evaluation of snowfall evolution in ESMs will be conducted, based on the experience of sampling and characterizing the space-based data. The final objective is to apply the improved observational and model characterization gained to questions of climate variability and change. This includes evolving snow event extremes in Canada’s North, the changing thickness and seasonal cycle of snow, and process evaluation of snowfall in climate simulations.

The project benefits from close collaborations with colleagues at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo’s Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3), and the Canadian Sea Ice and Snow Evolution (CanSISE) network ( As such, the successful applicant will have the opportunity to interact and share knowledge with a team of world leaders in the fields of snow observation and modelling, and to spend time visting at ECCC.

Essential qualifications, skills, and desirable qualities
The successful applicant will hold a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in a physical science, mathematics, or engineering, discipline related to the field of environmental remote sensing. Knowledge of remote sensing techniques (particularly related to passive or active microwave satellite sensors), cloud physics, seasonal snow and/or snow processes, would be a distinct advantage. This project requires extensive programming and development of data analysis tools in a Linux environment, and familiarity with one or more scientific programming languages, such as Fortran, Matlab, Python, or C++, would be highly beneficial.  The successful applicant will possess excellent academic qualifications, be intellectually inquisitive, an independent thinker and writer, eager to collaborate, and capable of communicating their results, orally and in writing, to a broad range of audiences.

Contact information and deadline
Informal enquiries about the position should be directed to the advisor and principal investigator Dr Christopher Fletcher ( For more information about Dr Fletcher's research group, see For further details about the PhD programme in Geography at University of Waterloo see Potential applicants are encouraged to respond quickly. A review of applicants will begin immediately, and short-listed applicants will be contacted to arrange telephone/Skype interviews beginning in late-April 2017.

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