PhD POSITION: Enhancing Seasonal Predictability of Impactful Weather Extremes in the Mediterranean Using AI

PhD POSITION: Enhancing Seasonal Predictability of Impactful Weather Extremes in the Mediterranean Using AI

Published Deadline Location
3 Nov 30 Nov Amsterdam

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Are you interested in making a contribution to enhancing the predictability of seasonal extreme weather hazards, such as heat waves, droughts and wildfires, to better equip society in dealing with current and future risks? Please apply at Vrije Univers...

Job description

Working within a large EU project, the you will do research leading to a PhD thesis with a focus on improving seasonal predictability of impact relevant weather extremes over the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean region is widely acknowledged as a climate change hotspot, experiencing accelerated warming compared to global averages and upward trends in extreme weather including drought. Current state-of-the-art climate models struggle to accurately predict these extremes, which has significant repercussions for various socio-economic sectors (health, agriculture, water resource management, ecology, and tourism). Emerging artificial intelligence (AI) methods offer promising avenues to address these challenges.

You will become part of the Climate Extremes research group ( within the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM). Together with colleagues at IVM, the Netherlands eScience center, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and other (inter)national partners, you will apply innovative AI methods to extensive climate datasets, encompassing both observations and climate models. The primary objective is to enhance seasonal predictability in the Mediterranean region, a critical step in developing effective early warning systems tailored to various impact sectors of interest. You are expected to write peer-reviewed papers as partial fulfilment of the PhD thesis, to participate in international conferences and regular project meetings in the eastern Mediterranean, and to assist in some limited teaching activities.

This research is part of the EU-funded project PREVENT (Improved predictability of Mediterranean extremes from seasonal to decadal timescales), conducted at the IVM at VU Amsterdam. PREVENT leverages the expertise of a research consortium comprising nine universities and research institutes, uniting specialists in climate modelling, impact modelling, machine learning, and statistics, with local stakeholders in the Mediterranean. The ultimate goal of this research is to enhance short- to medium-term adaptation decision-making through improved seasonal and decadal predictions in a changing climate, thereby enhancing resilience in both societies and ecosystems.

Your duties
  • analysing large observational and climate model data sets
  • applying machine learning methods, including explainable ai, to these datasets to improve seasonal forecasts of impact relevant weather extremes
  • collaborate with climate and AI experts to interpret findings and optimize results
  • writing a PhD thesis consisting of 3 or 4 scientific papers
  • working with colleagues of the project consortium, contributing to project reporting, attending project meetings in Mediterranean
  • assisting in some limited teaching activities at IVM


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


  • MSc degree in computational sciences or similar (preferably with demonstrable affinity to climate sciences)
  • excellent skills in programming and using large datasets (preferably in Python). Experience with High Performance Computing (or interest in learning) is desirable
  • familiarity with state-of-the-art Machine Learning techniques
  • strong quantitative methodological skills
  • good communication skills, since the work involves collaboration in a larger team of international and multi-disciplinary researchers and stakeholders

Conditions of employment

A challenging position in a socially involved organisation. On full-time basis the remuneration amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of €2,770 (PhD) and a maximum €3,539 (PhD), depending on your education and experience. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The initial employment contract will affect a period of 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a total duration of 3 years and 9 months (45 months).
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalised benefits package


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 31,000 students. We employ over 5,000 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
Working at the Faculty of Science means working together with students, PhD candidates and scientists who are focused on their discipline, yet also have a broad view of the world. We are proud of the collegial working environment within the faculty, which is characterised by an ambitious and pragmatic attitude with commitment to the bigger picture. At the Faculty of Science, scientists and students work on fundamental and complex social issues for a sustainable and healthy future. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to malnutrition, from genetics to pharmaceuticals and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research cover the full breadth of the natural sciences. Scientific teaching and research is highly experimental, technical, computational and interdisciplinary in nature. This is why we collaborate extensively with leading research institutes and industry. The faculty has over 11,000 students studying across 40 educational programmes and employs over 1,600 staff spread over 10 scientific departments, making us the largest science faculty in the Netherlands.


Established in 1971, IVM is a leading environmental research institute that is internationally recognised for its high-quality research output in a range of environmental disciplines, as well as for its interdisciplinary work. The mission of the institute is to contribute to sustainable development and care for the environment through scientific research and teaching. IVM aims to do excellent problem-oriented research that is useful to a wide range of stakeholders in the Netherlands and internationally. A unique strength of our research is to understand sustainability problems in their social and economic context. IVM’s research community works within four departments: Environmental Economics; Environmental Geography, Environmental Policy Analysis; and Water and Climate Risk. Since 2001 IVM has been part of the Faculty of Science at VU Amsterdam (legal name Stichting VU).

The department of Water and Climate Risk is a dynamic group of ~50 international researchers, faculty members and PhD students within the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM). Explicit attention is given to the interaction between the hydrological and climate systems, and how these interactions lead to risk to society, the economy, and the environment. The focus is on water and climate extremes such as floods and droughts, to estimate impacts from these extremes on various economic sectors, and to examine which strategies can be developed to reduce impacts and risk.

Within WCR, the Climate Extremes group led by Prof. Coumou studies links between climate change and extreme weather with a special focus on how dynamical changes in the atmosphere (i.e. to jet streams) can change the frequency or intensity of extremes. The group pioneered the use of machine-learning techniques, including causal discovery and explainable AI, to understand atmospheric teleconnections behind extreme weather events. The team’s mission is to (1) understand the processes behind extreme weather, (2) assess the role of climate change on current and future extremes, (3) quantify the impacts and risks for society, in particular for agriculture and food security, and (4) improve seasonal to sub-seasonal (S2S) forecasting. The team unites expertise on novel data-driven methods (causal discovery, explainable AI) with state-of-the-art climate models. Our work has been extensively covered by (inter)national media, including The New York Times, Financial Times, Scientific American, Nieuwsuur, Nature, etc. Currently we lead the XAIDA project ( that unites 16 European research institutes with climate risk practitioners to better assess and predict the influence of climate change on extreme weather using novel artificial intelligence methods. For more information see our website:


  • PhD
  • 30.4—38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 16381


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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