PhD student, hydro-meteorological extremes, Grenoble, France

The University Grenoble Alpes, France, seeks a candidate for a PhD thesis on "Understanding the variability of Alpine hydro-meteorological extremes in an evolving climate" for 2018-2021.


Starting date: 1 October 2018.
Keys words: Hydro-meteorological extremes, atmospheric processes, last millennium, Alps.
Institute: IGE
Research group: HMCIS
Administrative base: Ecole Doctorale Terre, Univers, Environnement
Speciality: Ocean atmosphere hydrology
Profile: Skills in hydro-meteorology, climatology, data analysis and statistics


Bruno Wilhelm (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Sandrine Anquetin (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


Hydro-meteorological extremes such as river flooding are highly destructive natural hazards causing widespread impacts on socio-ecosystems. In the context of climate change, the frequency and magnitude of these events are expected to change, which constitutes an increasingly relevant issue for the societies for its future development (land planning; adaptation policies; insurance policies). However, climatic processes leading to such events are still poorly understood, in particular within mountainous areas where processes take place within a large range of spatial and temporal scales. To better understand these processes and accurately assess hazard evolutions thus remain priority challenges for the scientific community and stakeholders (IPCC reports 2013).

Within this general context, the overall goal of this PhD thesis is a better understanding of the Alpine flood variability in relation to past climate changes to improve projections of flood frequency in a changing climate. This study will focus on large Alpine catchment areas (France, Italy, Germany) being under different climate influences.

The first step of this PhD thesis will aim for an in-depth understanding of the atmospheric conditions that led to the occurrence of catastrophic river floods over the last 150 years (1852-2015) as documented by the international PAGES Floods Working Group. This will be undertaken through the study of both climate reanalyses and outputs from the atmospheric regional model MAR. The ability of the identified atmospheric features to be used as predictors will be tested using the ANALOG method (e.g. Chardon et al. 2014).

Based on this knowledge, the second phase of the PhD thesis will aim to test the ability of climate models to simulate reliable changes in frequency of such river flooding in a changing climate. Addressing this issue is usually highly challenging because in-situ observations (e.g. precipitation or gauge data) rarely span more than a few decades, precluding to identify significant changes in extreme frequency. It is therefore necessary, as a first step, to evaluate climate models in their ability to reproduce extreme event frequency within a longer time period. Recently, the study of natural archives such as lake sediments allowed to reconstruct millennium-long flood series, revealing a high variability in flood frequency (Wilhelm et al. 2012). Thereby, such paleoflood series will here be used as observations and PMIP simulations as reference climate model outputs (Schmidt et al, 2012), both covering the last millennium (850-1850).

This PhD will take advantage of the international PAGES Floods Working Group as well as the IDEX-UGA CDP-Trajectories interdisciplinary project.

Collaborations with Hugues Goosse (University of Louvain, Belgium) are planned in the second part of the PhD thesis (comparison proxy-model) and may need short stays at Louvain.


Deadline for applications: 15 May 2018.

Send an email to the supervisors Bruno Wilhelm (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and Sandrine Anquetin (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) with the following:

- CV
- details of 3 referees (full names, affiliation and email)
- marks of Bachelor and Masters' degrees



1. Chardon J., B. Hingray, A.-C. Favre et al. (2014). Spatial similarity and transferability of analog dates for precipitation downscaling over France. Journal of Climate, 27(13), 5056-5074.
2. IPCC (2013) Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth, Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley(eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY,USA, 1535 pp.
3. Wilhelm B. , F. Arnaud, P. Sabatier, O. Magand, E. Chapron, T. Courp, K. Tachikawa, B. Fanget, E. Malet, C. Pignol, E. Bard, J.J. Delannoy (2013). Paleoflood activity and climatic changes over the last 1400 years from lake sediments of the NW European Alps. Journal of Quaternary Science 28(2): 189–199.
4. Schmidt G. A., Jungclaus J. H., Ammann C. M., Bard E., Braconnot P., et al.. Climate forcing reconstructions for use in PMIP simulations of the Last Millennium (v1.1). Geoscientific Model Development, European Geosciences Union, 2012, 5, pp.185- 191.