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Mathematics and Statistics

Geophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics

This theme brings together leading researchers who use theoretical and computational approaches to tackle fundamental fluid dynamics problems, with a wide range of impacts including weather and climate prediction, space weather, and planetary habitability.

Research interests

Our research crosses the boundaries of several funding agencies. Recent projects have been funded by the EPSRC, STFC, and NERC, as well as the ERC, Leverhulme Trust, and Newton Fund, and the Met Office.

Theoretical fluid and continuum mechanics

Large-scale numerical simulations or laboratory experiments of fluid flows need to be underpinned by a theoretical understanding and interpretation. By developing theory, we are often able to connect seemingly diverse phenomena in the natural world under a single framework of understanding. Particular theoretical interests within the group include turbulence theory, chaotic mixing, vortex dynamics, dynamo theory, and geometric methods in ideal fluid flow.

We have ongoing connections within pure mathematics, in particular the Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry theme, in applications of geometry, knot theory, and topology to fluid flows. We also work with the Centre for Systems, Dynamics and Control on complexity science and dynamical systems approaches.

Lead academics: Alemi Ardakani, Berger, Foullon, Gilbert, Mason, Thuburn, Vallis, Wingate

Numerical analysis and modelling

In order to further our ability to simulate geophysical and astrophysical fluids, the next generation of numerical models must take advantage of the latest developments in ‘exascale’ high-performance computing. Our group performs fundamental numerical analysis, developing new methods to simulate fluids on fixed or adaptive spatial grids, and developing new time-stepping methods.

Members of the group are closely involved, through the LFRic project, with the development of the next-generation dynamical core of the Met Office Unified Model. This will enable weather forecasts and climate predictions to be performed with unprecedented resolution and accuracy. We are also involved in the development of novel compatible finite element methods through the Gusto project.

Lead academics: Alemi Ardakani, Shipton, Thuburn, Vallis, Wingate

Astrophysical fluid dynamics

Research in our group seeks to understand the generation of the magnetic fields of the Earth, other planets, and the Sun. Our work includes the investigation of planetary, solar, and galactic dynamos, including why planetary magnetic fields can suddenly reverse direction, as well as why sunspots change with a period of about 11 years.

To further our understanding of these phenomena, we make use of high-performance computing facilities to perform magnetohydrodynamic simulations.

Lead academics: Berger, Foullon, Gilbert, Hillier, Mason, Zhang

Solar-terrestrial plasmas and space weather

The Earth and other planets in our solar system are affected not just by the Sun’s light, but by streams of charged particles which produce space weather. When a solar storm hits there can be significant disruptions to communications, power lines, and satellite operations. Our research aims to enhance our ability to understand and predict space weather events. Studies range from the origins of magnetic fields in the interior of the Sun, to the development in the solar atmosphere, and their subsequent expulsion and propagation through space.

Our group is strengthening links with the Met Office Space Weather group, which hosts one of only three space weather prediction centres around the globe. We are also developing an open-source numerical code for the simulation partially ionised plasmas (PIP).

Lead academics: Berger, Foullon, Hillier, Mason, Wingate

Planetary and exoplanetary fluid dynamics

The wealth of data collected from robotic exploration of our solar system, and from observations of exoplanets, gives us a valuable resource for testing our knowledge of planetary atmospheric dynamics. These observations also raise important questions about the climates and potential habitability of planetary bodies. Members of the group are seeking to understand phenomena such as the impacts of global dust storms on Mars, the polygonal polar vortex ‘crystals’ seen on Jupiter, and the methane cycle of Titan (an analogue of Earth’s hydrological cycle).

We collaborate closely with the Exoplanets research group within Astrophysics at Exeter. We have also adapted our open-source idealised atmospheric modelling framework, Isca, to simulate a number of (exo)planetary bodies.

Lead academics: Lambert, Seviour, Thomson, Vallis

Fluid dynamics of weather and climate

Extreme weather events and changes to atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns have potentially profound effects on society. Understanding these phenomena, and predicting their response to a changing climate, requires an underpinning in fundamental fluid dynamics. We work on a broad range of topics including ocean circulation, atmosphere-ocean interaction, convection, the atmospheric boundary layer and pollution, monsoons, jet streams, stratospheric dynamics, and the ozone hole.

Several members of the group work closely with the (Exeter-based) Met Office, driving improvements within the Unified Model, the UK’s major weather and climate prediction system. We have also led the development of Isca, a framework for modelling global atmospheric circulation at varying degrees of complexity.

Within Exeter, we have formal links and collaborations with the Weather and Climate Science and Statistics and Data Science themes, as well as with Exeter Climate Systems and the Global Systems Institute.

Selected publications: McKinley et al. (2018)

People and partners

See the drop-down menus below to find out more about the staff members who work within the Geophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics theme, and which modules they teach.

Academic staff
Dr Hamid Alemi Ardakani Senior Lecturer in Mathematics
Professor Bob Beare Associate Professor Mathematics
Professor Mitchell Berger Professor
Dr Georgios Efstathiou Senior Research Fellow/Proleptic Lecturer
Dr Claire Foullon Senior Lecturer
Professor Andrew Gilbert Professor
Professor Andrew Hillier Associate Professor
Dr Frank Kwasniok Senior Lecturer
Professor F Hugo Lambert Associate Professor
Dr Joanne Mason Senior Lecturer
Dr Cyril Morcrette Senior Lecturer
Professor Adam Scaife Professor
Dr William Seviour Senior Lecturer
Dr Jemma Shipton Lecturer in Mathematics (E&R)
Dr Piotr Slowinski Lecturer
Dr Stephen Thomson Lecturer
Professor John Thuburn Professor
Professor Geoffrey Vallis Professor
Professor Beth Wingate Professor
Professor Keke Zhang Professor
Post-doctoral research fellows
Dr Paul Bowen Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Laura Currie Research Fellow
Dr Matthew Henry Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Neil Lewis Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Penelope Maher Research Fellow
Dr Denis Sergeev Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Kasturi Singh Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Ben Snow Postdoc Researcher
Dr Monisha Natchiar Subbiah Renganathan Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Dimitar Vlaykov Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Visitors, emeritus and honorary fellows
Dr Oliver Allanson Honorary Senior Lecturer (University of Exeter) & Assistant Professor (University of Birmingham)
Professor Andrew Soward Emeritus Professor
Nawal Alshahrani Postgraduate
Tim Andrews Postgraduate
James Arthur Postgraduate
William Beckwith-Chandler
Alex Brown Postgraduate
Aaron Carruthers
Ross Castle Postgraduate
Joe Clarke Postgraduate
Nell Hartney Postgraduate
Stephen Hughes Postgraduate
Thomas Hutton Postgraduate
Manohar Teja Kalluri Doctoral student
Velizar Kirkow PhD Student
Danny McCulloch Postgraduate
Brett McKim Postgraduate
Regan Mudhar Postgraduate
Juliane Rosemeier
Charlie Turrell Postgraduate
Liam Watts Postgraduate
Daniel Williams PhD Student
Ned Williams Postgraduate
Daniel Witt Postgraduate

Members of the Geophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics theme are happy to discuss potential PhD opportunities. Jobs within this group will be posted on the University job portal.

Postgraduate research opportunities

The Geophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics group at Exeter maintains an international reputation for research and we continue to invest in top-quality academics and offer a range of projects to research students to enhance this expertise. For more details of our facilities and training programmes, see our pages for postgraduate taught and postgraduate research degrees.

Apply for a research degree in mathematics

Details of research opportunities within mathematics are listed on our webpage. A list of projects for which funding is currently available can be found on our dedicated studentship webpage.

If you are interested in doing a PhD in pure mathematics, please contact potential supervisors to discuss possible projects. You can find out more and apply on our website.

For questions and enquiries please contact Prof Andrew Gilbert