PhD position on Atmospheric, Oceanic and Land Drivers of Multi-year Droughts Under Climate Change

Utrecht University

Utrecht, Netherlands 🇳🇱

Job description

The department of Physical Geography is searching for a PhD candidate with the aim to improve our understanding of drivers of multi-year droughts within the ERC MultiDry project. The project will make use of the latest developments in climate and hydrological modelling and will be executed in close collaboration with the Dutch meteorological service (KNMI).

Drought is a major natural hazard, caused by lack of water in precipitation, soil moisture, groundwater or rivers. The observed rise in multi-year drought events resulted in major challenges for water resource management, agriculture, and the economy, as was evident in recent (in some cases ongoing) multi-year droughts in the western US, southern South America, southern Africa, western Europe and Iberian Peninsula, India and Australia. However, there is limited knowledge on why these droughts last so long, what drives the multi-year events, and why do they are becoming more frequent?

Within this project, you will make use of new developments in climate science, data analysis and hydrological modelling to improve our knowledge related to the drivers of multi-year droughts, now and in the future. The PhD project aims to develop methods that identify the atmospheric, oceanic and land drivers that initiate multi-year droughts, using large-ensemble climate simulations to link meteorological and climate phenomena to drought impacts at the relevant resolutions and spatial extent. In your work you will systematically study potential drivers and see how, and if, they affect the frequency and duration of droughts on land. Specifically, you will focus on sources in the ocean (e.g. El Nino-Southern Oscillation), atmosphere (e.g. Rossby wave teleconnections) and/or feedbacks between land and atmosphere (e.g. remote snow cover or soil moisture anomalies). Using existing model simulations and know-how on drought events you will identify patterns, and later study how these patterns will change in response to further climate change.

You will work in a multi-disciplinary team (2 PhD candidates, 1 Postdoc, the PI and external collaborators) in the ERC MultiDry project. The ERC has a focus on fundamental research in climate change, hydrology and hydrological extremes all related to multi-year drought. There will be ample opportunity to cooperate with researchers in the team, which includes, in addition to Utrecht University, people at the KNMI. The principle appointment will be at Utrecht University, but it is expected that you will work in close collaboration with the partners at different institutes.

To support academic and personal development, PhD candidates at Utrecht University follow courses and assist in teaching at Bachelor’s and Master’s level at our faculty. Together these activities amount to approximately 20% of the contracted time.


We are looking for candidates with:

  • an MSc in Atmospheric Sciences, Oceanography, Hydrology, Civil Engineering or a related field;
  • affinity with data analysis and/or numerical modelling;
  • the ability to work in teams;
  • excellent English oral and writing skills;
  • preferably basic Dutch oral skills or a willingness to master the Dutch language.


You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,541 in the first year and €3,247 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year.

In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions

external link

(multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University

external link.

About the organisation

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University

external link

, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes

external link. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

Utrecht University’s Faculty of Geosciences

external link

studies the Earth: from the Earth’s core to its surface, including man’s spatial and material utilisation of the Earth – always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development. The faculty is located at Utrecht Science Park

external link near the historical city centre of Utrecht.

The Department of Physical Geography

external link

has the ambition to excel in research and education on BSc, MSc and PhD level. Its research focuses on processes, patterns and dynamics of Earth’s continental and coastal systems, and on the interaction between these processes. This knowledge is essential for the sustainable management of our planet and to guarantee the availability of resources for the next generations.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. ir. N. Wanders

external link

(Associate Professor), via


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. 

To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the ‘apply’ button. Also name at least two referees (with e-mail contact addresses and phone numbers).

The interviews are scheduled for 12 April and 17 April. The expected starting date is 1 September 2023.

The application deadline is 31 March 2023.





IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development