PhD position: Land surface Interactions with the Atmosphere over the Iberian Semi-arid Environment (LIAISE)

Published on
December 3, 2019
Location Wageningen
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We are looking for

Are you eager to start a career in scientific research and study land-atmosphere interactions in a semi-arid region dominated by irrigated agriculture? Do you get enthusiastic when you need to work on themes around evapotranspiration, micro-meteorological field campaign and meso-scale modelling? Then we are looking for you!

First of all a summary of the project (LIAISE). In semi-arid regions irrigated agriculture consumes up to 95% of the available water. Most of this water is lost to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration (ET). The irrigation enhanced ET creates a highly heterogeneous landscape in terms of surface temperature and thereby boundary-layer development ranging on scales from field-to field (~1km) to a larger scale (~100km). The coupling between surface and boundary layer processes is particularly strong in semi-arid terrain due to the strong heating of the dry surfaces. The ET induced heterogeneity will lead to circulations that can alter e.g. precipitation patterns and advection of air with different properties, all of which affect the evapotranspiration process where it all started with. Already existing heterogeneity in the landscape such as topography and contrast between land-sea will add further complexity to the circulations and feedbacks they cause.

Global weather models are too coarse to resolve these effects and typically show large biases (e.g. in surface temperature) in irrigated regions. Also in the non-irrigated, dry areas ET is not described well by models due to our lack of knowledge on vegetation response to water-stressed conditions and the land-atmosphere coupling feedbacks during extreme weather events like heatwaves or drought. From an experimental perspective, local ET cannot be understood and therefore not accurately described from local measurements if it is not viewed in a regional context.

Next summer MAQ will take part in an international, multidisciplinary field campaign LIAISE (Land surface Interactions with the Atmosphere over the Iberian Semi-arid Environment), which will take place in the Ebro basin in North-East Spain. Atmospheric-, soil- and vegetation measurements will be taken of all aspects that drive the evapotranspiration process over a range of spatial scales from leaf level to airborne measurements. In addition all currently available evapotranspiration measurement techniques will be gathered to define a current state-of-the-art. An important contribution of MAQ to LIAISE are various types of scintillometers to measure land-atmosphere exchange fluxes, including ET, at large spatial scales. MAQ is an expert group on the scintillation technique.

Connected to the LIAISE field-campaign there is an extensive modelling effort. At MAQ there is a comprehensive model infra-structure available that is aimed understanding land-atmosphere exchange processes at local to regional scales.

As PhD candidate you will participate in the LIAISE field campaign and use data analysis and local-scale models (3D with LES or 1D with CLASS) and a regional scale model (WRF) to unravel the complex interactions of this exemplary system of a semi-arid region dominated by irrigated agriculture. In the data analysis special attention will be devoted to the analysis of the scintillometer data. Your PhD project will be supervised by Dr. Oscar Hartogensis and Prof. Jordi Vila Guerau de Arellano. The position will start in March-April of 2020.

We ask

We are looking for a strong, curiosity-driven candidate who enjoys field-work as well as modelling and is able to combine the two approaches in a conceptual framework. The ideal candidate has:

  • a strong academic record;
  • meaningful prior research experience;
  • a Master's degree in meteorology, hydrology or related environmental sciences;
  • the ability to program in Matlab or Python (absolute requirement);
  • the ability to work independently as well as in small teams
  • good communication skills in English (oral and written) and able to present results to the scientific community in the form of peer-reviewed publications and presentations at scientific meetings;
  • and having a driver’s license is also helpful

We offer

In addition to an exciting research project and a friendly and stimulating work environment, we offer you to participate in a large international field-campaign in the summer of 2020 in North-Eastern Spain. We provide a 4-year position as a PhD researcher. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months, which will be extended by another 30 months after a positive evaluation. The salary will increase from EUR 2,352 gross per month in the first year up to EUR 2,975 in the last year, based on full-time employment (38 hours per week).
In addition, we offer:

  • 8% holiday allowance;
  • a structural year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions;
  • flexible working hours and holidays can possibly be determined in consultation so that an optimal balance between work and private life is possible;
  • excellent pension plan through ABP;
  • 232 vacation hours, the option to purchase extra and good supplementary leave schemes;
  • a flexible working time: the possibility to work a maximum of 2 hours per week extra and thereby to build up extra leave;
  • a choice model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle plan;
  • a lively workplace where you can easily make contacts and where many activities are organized on the Wageningen Campus. A place where education, research and business are represented;
  • use the sports facilities on campus

More information

Application process: Please use the online tool to apply and upload the following documents:

  • letter of motivation
  • CV
  • list of grades (bachelor and master, or equivalent)
  • 2 letters of reference
  • your thesis
Your application will be given full consideration if you apply before 20 January 2020. For additional information on the position and the application process, contact Oscar Hartogensis (


We are

The goal of Wageningen University & Research is to deliver a substantial contribution to the quality of life. We search for answers to issues affecting society- such as sustainable food production, climate change and alternative energy. In Wageningen we encompass the entire chain of knowledge, from fundamental research to science-based and up-scalable practical knowledge to create solutions that have impact. A coordinated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of the outstanding approach of Wageningen. Every day 6,500 people work on 'the quality of life', turning ideas into reality, on a global scale. Could you be one of these people? We give you the space you need!

The Meteorology and Air Quality Group (MAQ) seeks to foster the understanding of atmospheric processes and their relevance for weather, air quality and climate. Research focuses on the atmospheric boundary layer, including boundary layer clouds, and the atmospheric aspects of the connected energy, water, carbon and aerosol budgets.

MAQ pioneers on investigations of the interactions between the land at the atmosphere at the meter and second scales. Our groundbreaking approach is the combination of advanced measurements techniques with fine-scale numerical simulations. Please check out these video’s about our fieldwork and numerical simulation of land-atmosphere interaction.

Equal Opportunities Employer
We are an equal opportunities employer and welcome applications from all suitably qualified persons regardless of their race, sex, disability, religion/belief, sexual orientation or age. Furthermore, given our active policy to be as inclusive as possible as employer, we explicitly invite women and international candidates to apply. We believe that a diverse and inclusive workplace makes us a more relevant, more competitive, and more resilient organization.

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