PhD Position (m/f) in Application of machine learning methods to regional climate predictions

Start of announcement11.06.2018
End of announcement08.07.2018
InstituteInstitute of Coastal Research
Contact personErika Krüger

The Institute of Coastal Research at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht hosts a number of highly motivated and experienced researchers in the broad field of coastal research. The group ‘Coastal Impacts and Paleoclimate’ invites for a three-years PhD position (m/f) in Application of machine learning methods to regional climate predictions. The place of employment is Geesthacht, Germany.

Machine learning methods are being applied to an increasing number of areas of science and technology, in some cases with clear success. Their application in environmental and climate sciences remains limited, despite the clear benefits that reliable long-term environmental and climate predictions would have for society. Predictions at time scales ranging from seasons to decades are notoriously difficult and, despite some advances based on standard modelling methods derived from weather prediction, they are still in a relatively early stage of maturation.

Machine Learning methods represent a completely different approach to physically based climate predictions, relying on self-learning numerical algorithms that do not explicitly aim at representing the underlying physical equations in contrast to what climate models aim to. They are largely data-driven and display a high degree of flexibility, but they require large observational data sets for their statistical training. It is so far unclear to what extent those methods can improve or surpass the quality of models based on physical modelling.

The proposed PhD project will explore the potential of a range of already existing machine learning algorithms for seasonal and decadal climate predictions at regional scales, first in controlled conditions using synthetic data from long climate simulations, and later with real observations. The target region is the North Atlantic-European sector and the target climate variables will be related to processes important for the regional and coastal climate, such as ocean surface temperatures, winds and precipitation.

The research focus of the Coastal Impacts and Paleoclimate group lies on the long-term historical, recent and future changes of the land-ocean system brought about by climate variations and other drivers of societal relevance, and the study of the impact of these changes in different coastal regions around the world. For more information about this group, please refer to

Coastal Impacts and Paleoclimate

The PhD work will be conducted under supervision of Dr. Eduardo Zorita, Institute of Coastal Research, and co-supervised by Prof. Thomas Ludwig, Department of Informatics, University of Hamburg, and will ideally lead to a doctorate at the University of Hamburg. It will be technically supported by the German Climate Computer Center (Deutsches Klimarechenzentrum, DKRZ).

Job requirements:

  • Master in applied mathematics or computer science with interest in climate science, or alternatively a Master in physics, meteorology or oceanography with a very strong commitment to the application and development of numerical methods - experience in scientific programming with FORTRAN and related analysing programming languages (e.g. MATLAB, R, Python), Tensor Flow
  • good command of written and spoken English
  • good communication skills and ability to work in an interdisciplinary team of various fields of

For further questions please contact

Dr. Eduardo Zorita

We offer:

  • multinational work environment with over 900 colleagues from more than 50 nations
  • extensive options of vocational training (i. a. expert seminars, language courses or leadership seminars)
  • flexible working hours and various models to ensure the compatibility of family and career
  • excellent infrastructure, including a scientific in-house library as well as modern work spaces
  • remuneration according to the standards of the collective wage agreement TV-AVH including further social benefits

The advancement of equality at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht goes without saying; in particular, we are striving to increase the percentage of women in the science sector. Severely disabled persons with equal qualifications will be considered preferentially within the framework of legal requirements.

Please send your application indicating job offer

code-no. 2018/KS 7

including your CV, description of your scientific expertise, publication list, copies of credentials including grades, and names and addresses of three academic referees by e-mail in one pdf-file not larger than 10 MB to

human ressources

The closing date for applications is July 8th, 2018.