PhD project offered by the IMPRS-gBGC in July 2023


Understanding carbon pooling in the stratified boundary layer of the Arctic atmosphere

Mark Schlutow , Mathias Göckede , Michał Gałkowski , Christoph Gerbig , Kai U. Totsche

Project description

High-latitude ecosystems play a pivotal role in the global carbon cycle. Approximately 50 % of the global below-ground carbon reservoir is stored in northern permafrost soils, an amount three times as large as currently contained in the atmosphere. Future climate change threatens to destabilize these reservoirs, with the potential to trigger strong feedback processes between climate and the carbon cycle that further amplify climate change. A key uncertainty in the context of monitoring the Arctic carbon are the night-time fluxes of greenhouse gases.
During the day, the atmospheric dynamics are typically driven by convection in the boundary layer. The latter is therefore well mixed due to turbulence. At night, in contrast, radiative cooling gives rise to a stably stratified atmosphere which inhibits vertical mixing and causes pools of, e.g., carbon dioxide or methane that are released from the soil. This phenomenon poses eminent difficulties for flux measurements of greenhouse gases. Our project aims at improving our understanding of night-time carbon fluxes and atmospheric dynamics.

Research program

  • Investigation of the stable boundary layer by means of Large Eddy Simulations
  • Development of novel approaches
    • Application of the concept “Age of Air” in the context of submeso-scale modeling
    • Implementing and performing high-resolution “Implicit Large Eddy Simulations”
  • Model validation and verification in terms of eddy flux measurements in the Arctic

Working group & planned collaborations

The successful PhD candidate will join the European Research Council Synergy Project Q-ARCTIC group and be affiliated with the Department of Biogeochemical Signals at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry. Collaborations with our partners from Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg are planned. For further information, please contact Mark Schlutow).


Applications to the IMPRS-gBGC are open to well-motivated and highly-qualified students from all countries. Prerequisites for this PhD project are:
  • Degree: MSc in meteorology, physics, mathematics, Earth system science, atmospheric science, environmental engineering, computational science or related disciplines
  • Necessary Lab and Computational skills: Strong mathematical and statistical skills, very good programming skills in e.g. FORTRAN, C++, Matlab, Python
  • One or more of the following skills will be considered advantageous:
    • Experience with Large Eddy Simulations and parallel computing
    • Knowledge on Atmospheric Boundary Layer physics
    • Knowledge on the Eddy Covariance Method
  • Other skills/requirements: Excellent written and communication skills in English
The Max Planck Society (MPS) strives for gender equality and diversity. The MPS aims to increase the proportion of women in areas where they are underrepresented. Women are therefore explicitly encouraged to apply. We welcome applications from all fields. The Max Planck Society has set itself the goal of employing more severely disabled people. Applications from severely disabled persons are expressly encouraged.

The Atmospheric Boundary Layer (<a href="">Source</a>), stable stratification indicated by dark grey area.
The Atmospheric Boundary Layer (Source), stable stratification indicated by dark grey area.

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