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Geophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics

Geophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics

Geophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics

From monsoons and jet streams in the atmosphere, to the Gulf Stream that warms our shores, to the bands visible on Jupiter, to sunspots and solar flares, fluid dynamics is a vital part of our natural environment. Our group brings together leading researchers who use theoretical and computational approaches to tackle fundamental fluid dynamics problems, with a wide range of impacts including weather and climate prediction, space weather, and planetary habitability.

Academic Staff

Dr Hamid Alemi Ardakani Lecturer in Mathematics
Professor Bob Beare Associate Professor
Professor Mitchell Berger  Professor
Dr Georgios Efstathiou Senior Research Fellow/Proleptic Lecturer
Dr Claire Foullon Senior Lecturer
Professor Andrew Gilbert Professor
Professor Andrew Hillier Associate Professor
Dr Frank Kwasniok  Senior Lecturer
Professor Hugo Lambert Associate Professor
Dr Joanne Mason Senior Lecturer
Dr William Seviour Senior Lecturer
Dr Jemma Shipton Lecturer
Dr Stephen Thomson Lecturer
Professor John Thuburn Professor
Professor Geoffrey Vallis Professor
Professor Beth Wingate Professor
Professor Keke Zhang Professor

Post-doctoral and Research Fellows

Dr Abayomi Abatan Research Fellow
Dr Paul Burns Research Fellow
Dr Packard Chan Postdoctoral Research Associate
Dr Laura Currie Research Fellow
Dr Ruth Geen Research Fellow
Dr Matthew Henry Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Penelope Maher Research Fellow
Dr William McIntyre Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Monisha Natchiar Subbiah Renganathan Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Denis Sergeev Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Piotr Slowinski Research Fellow
Dr Ben Snow Postdoctoral Researcher
Dr Chen Wang Postdoctoral Research Fellow


Azza Al Gatheem  Postgraduate
Tim Andrews Postgraduate
Paul Bowen Postgraduate
Ross Castle Postgraduate
Nell Hartney Postgraduate
Susannah Hearn Postgraduate
Thomas Hutton Postgraduate
Simon Lance Postgraduate
Qun Liu Postgraduate
Megan Maunder Postgraduate
Brett McKim Postgraduate
Giulia Murtas Postgraduate
Alexander Paterson Postgraduate
Liam Watts Postgraduate
Daniel Williams Postgraduate
Ned Williams Postgraduate

Visitors, Emeritus and Honorary Fellows

Professor Andrew Soward Emeritus Professor
Professor Nigel Wood Honorary Visiting Professor
Peiqiang Xu Visitor

Research themes

Our research crosses the boundaries of several funding agencies. Recent projects have been funded by the EPSRC, STFC, and NERC, as well as the ERC, Leverhulme Trust, and Newton Fund, and the Met Office. Find our latest publications and more detail on our research areas below.

View our publications >>

Large-scale numerical simulations or laboratory experiments of fluid flows need to be underpinned by a theoretical understanding and interpretation. By developing theory, we are often able to connect seemingly diverse phenomena in the natural world under a single framework of understanding. Particular theoretical interests within the group include turbulence theory, chaotic mixing, vortex dynamics, dynamo theory, and geometric methods in ideal fluid flow.

We have ongoing connections with pure mathematics, in particular the Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry group, in applications of geometry, knot theory, and topology to fluid flows. We also work with the Dynamical Systems and Control group on complexity science and dynamical systems approaches.

Lead academics: Alemi Ardakani, Berger, Foullon, Gilbert, Mason, Thuburn, Vallis, Wingate

In order to further our ability to simulate geophysical and astrophysical fluids, the next generation of numerical models must take advantage of the latest developments in ‘exascale’ high-performance computing. Our group performs fundamental numerical analysis, developing new methods to simulate fluids on fixed or adaptive spatial grids, and developing new time-stepping methods.

Members of the group are closely involved, through the LFRic project, with the development of the next-generation dynamical core of the Met Office Unified Model. This will enable weather forecasts and climate predictions to be performed with unprecedented resolution and accuracy. We are also involved in the development of novel compatible finite element methods through the Gusto project.

Lead academics: Alemi Ardakani, Shipton, Thuburn, Vallis, Wingate

Research in our group seeks to understand the generation of the magnetic fields of the Earth, other planets, and the Sun. Our work includes the investigation of planetary, solar, and galactic dynamos, including why planetary magnetic fields can suddenly reverse direction, as well as why sunspots change with a period of about 11 years.

To further our understanding of these phenomena, we make use of high-performance computing facilities to perform magnetohydrodynamic simulations.

Lead academics: Berger, Foullon, Gilbert, Hillier, Mason, Zhang

The Earth and other planets in our solar system are affected not just by the Sun’s light, but by streams of charged particles which produce space weather. When a solar storm hits there can be significant disruptions to communications, power lines, and satellite operations. Our research aims to enhance our ability to understand and predict space weather events. Studies range from the origins of magnetic fields in the interior of the Sun, to the development in the solar atmosphere, and their subsequent expulsion and propagation through space.

Our group is strengthening links with the Met Office Space Weather group, which hosts one of only three space weather prediction centres around the globe. We are also developing an open-source numerical code for the simulation partially ionised plasmas (PIP).

Lead academics: Berger, Foullon, Hillier, Mason, Wingate

The wealth of data collected from robotic exploration of our solar system, and from observations of exoplanets, gives us a valuable resource for testing our knowledge of planetary atmospheric dynamics. These observations also raise important questions about the climates and potential habitability of planetary bodies. Members of the group are seeking to understand phenomena such as the impacts of global dust storms on Mars, the polygonal polar vortex ‘crystals’ seen on Jupiter, and the methane cycle of Titan (an analogue of Earth’s hydrological cycle).

We collaborate closely with the Exoplanets research group within Astrophysics at Exeter. We have also adapted our open-source idealised atmospheric modelling framework, Isca, to simulate a number of (exo)planetary bodies.

Lead academics: Lambert, Seviour, Thomson, Vallis

Extreme weather events and changes to atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns have potentially profound effects on society. Understanding these phenomena, and predicting their response to a changing climate, requires an underpinning in fundamental fluid dynamics. We work on a broad range of topics including ocean circulation, atmosphere-ocean interaction, convection, the atmospheric boundary layer and pollution, monsoons, jet streams, stratospheric dynamics, and the ozone hole.

Several members of the group work closely with the (Exeter-based) Met Office, driving improvements within the Unified Model, the UK’s major weather and climate prediction system. We have also led the development of Isca, a framework for modelling global atmospheric circulation at varying degrees of complexity.

Within Exeter, we have formal links and collaborations with the Climate Dynamics group, the Statistics and Data Science group, Exeter Climate Systems, the Global Systems Institute.

Lead academics: Beare, Efstathiou, Kwasniok, Lambert, Seviour, Shipton, Thomson, Thuburn, Vallis, Wingate

Seminars and events

We run a regular Geophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics seminar series. Seminars are presented by both internal speakers and by external speakers who have been invited to visit the group.

Postgraduate study opportunities

We are committed to being a diverse and inclusive group, and strongly encourage applications to join us from those within groups that are underrepresented in our field.

STFC studentship (projects to be announced)

An STFC-funded PhD studentship, in the area of planetary, solar, or space studies, is available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK, and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes. Other applicants may be suitable for partial funding. The application deadline is expected in March 2021.

EPSRC DTP studentships

The application deadline for PhD studentships in 2021 has now passed. Please watch this space for details of EPSRC DTP projects offered within our group for the 2022 round (expected December 2021).

NERC GW4+ DTP studentships

The application deadline for PhD studentships within the NERC GW4+ DTP for 2021 has now passed. Watch this space for details of projects offered in the 2022 round (expected November 2021).

China Scholarship Council

The 2021 application deadline for funded PhD studentships under the China Scholarship Council and University of Exeter has now passed. Please watch this space for future opportunities.

We welcome any enquiries from prospective students, with a strong background in mathematics, computer science, or physical sciences, who are interested pursuing a self-funded PhD in the group. We are happy to supervise projects falling within any of the research themes described above. We encourage prospective students to contact any of the academic staff with whom they might have overlapping interests to discuss opportunities further. 

For any general enquiries about PhD opportunities within the group, please email

Our group has close links with the following MSc programmes:

Funding for international students may be available through the University’s Global Excellence Scholarships.