Funded PhD opportunities

The use of satellite data to examine regional and global patterns of temperature change (elevation dependent warming) in mountainous regions

  • Application end date: 11th February 2018
  • Funding Availability: Funded PhD project (International students only)
  • Department: Department of Geography
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Nick Pepin

Project code: GEOG4090218 - This project is only open to International (non-EU) students

Project description

In the ongoing debates about climate change, the existence of elevational-dependent warming (EDW: i.e. whether warming is enhanced at high elevations) has become a critically important issue for evaluating and understanding the rapid environmental changes being observed in mountainous regions across the globe. However existing field observations are of insufficient quantity and quality to assess the extent of this phenomenon. Current weather stations are biased towards low elevations, and the distinct microclimates in mountain regions mean that an assessment of climate change patterns is particularly challenging. Model simulations, although valuable, suffer from lack of spatial resolution, and require dynamical or statistical downscaling. 

Satellite Earth Observation data archives, which extends back ca. 40 years with Landsat and 15 years with MODIS, provide almost complete global spatial coverage. The aim of this PhD is to investigate the utility of satellite temperature data (Land surface temperature or LST) in assessing climate change patterns at high elevations across the world. MODIS provides regional coverage over most mountain regions twice a day at resolutions of 1 km to 250 m. A major focus will be the comparison between LST and air temperatures measured at the local scale in the Pyrenees (mid-latitudes), Scandes (Arctic), and in Africa (Kilimanjaro), where the research team has collected field climate data for many years using over 100 measurement stations, and is continuing to do so. There is also opportunity for expanding the research to cover China and the Tibetan plateau, and the North American Rockies through collaborators in these regions. 

The project is supervised by Dr Nick Pepin (Reader in Climate Science), Dr Harold Lovell (Lecturer in GIS and Remote Sensing) and Dr Richard Teeuw (Principal Lecturer in Applied Geoinformatics).

Additional collaborators include Dr Nathan Forsythe (post-doc, Newcastle), Prof Chris Merchant (University of Reading), Dr Qinglong You (Professor, Nanjing), and Dr Imtiaz Rangwala (University of Colorado).

This is part of an international effort to understand patterns of mountain warming, spearheaded by the EDW working group (, and sponsored by the Mountain Research Initiative. Thus it is particularly suited to an international applicant with a global outlook. 

In addition to general research training (led by the graduate school), the PhD student will receive training in both fieldwork for climate monitoring (maintaining and developing surface networks) as well as advanced computational skills from manipulation and analysis of satellite data, critical for a career in climate science. They will also have opportunity to be involved in a global initiative supported by MRI ( and through this organisation to develop contacts on several continents. There will be opportunities for international collaboration with partners across the world including China and the U.S, and for training in research dissemination (conferences, electronic platforms, interaction with stakeholders).

Supervisor profiles

Dr Nick Pepin

Dr Harold Lovell

Dr Richard Teeuw

Admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.  


Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Dr Nick Pepin at (02392 842484) or Dr Harold Lovell at (02392 842473).

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

You can apply online at  You are required to create an account which gives you the flexibility to save the form, log out and return to it at any time convenient to you.

A link to the online application form and comprehensive guidance notes can be found at

When applying, please quote project code: GEOG4090218.

Interview date: TBC

Start date: 1st October 2018.

Funding notes

This project is only open to International (non-EU) students.

Eligible applicants will be considered for the Portsmouth Global PhD scholarship scheme.

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