Rate-induced transitions in cyclones

Rate-induced transitions in cyclonic atmospheric flows

Degree type


Closing date

25 September 2023



Citizenship requirement

Domestic / International

About the research project

Low pressure systems associated with cyclonic activity are the cause of some of the most destructive weather events around the globe.  In Australia these can manifest, for example, as tropical cyclones, extratropical cyclones, and cut-off lows.  Such systems are often modelled as a stable state on their own; however, it is known that the formation and dissipation of these systems are caused by interaction with changes to the background conditions. While the general increase in atmospheric forcing levels is known to impact cyclonic events, recent research has identified that the rate of change of forcing to a system is arguably more significant (Ritchie et al., 2023).

Rate-induced transitions have been shown to exist in spatially-extended models (Clarke et al., 2021, Rietkerk et al.,2021), as well as low-dimensional models for tropical cyclones (Slyman et al., 2023). It has yet to be shown that spatially-extended cyclone models can experience such transitions. This project will investigate the possible transitions in models of cyclonic vorticity and identify any that are sensitive to rates of change in the system forcing.  This will include axisymmetric models for tropical cyclones (Kepert, 2001, Kepert and Wang, 2001, Bryan and Rotunno, 2009) and the shallow water equations on a rotating sphere (Callaghan and Forbes, 2006). Possible areas of exploration include the Eyewall Replacement Cycle in tropical cyclones, the tropical-to-extratropical transition of cyclones, and the formation of cut-off lows.  The effect of increasing variance in environmental conditions will also be considered when investigating response to forcing.

The prospective student should have a background in applied mathematics, fluid dynamics, and preferably geophysical flows.  Techniques from perturbation methods, dynamical systems, and spectral analysis will be employed, both analytically and numerically.  The student should have a reasonable proficiency in either MATLAB, Python, or similar computational language.

This project will collaborate with colleagues from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Weather of the 21st Century, and the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter (UK).

Bryan, G. H., & Rotunno, R. (2009). The maximum intensity of tropical cyclones in axisymmetric numerical model simulations. Monthly Weather Review, 137(6), 1770-1789.
Callaghan, T. G., & Forbes, L. K. (2006). Computing large-amplitude progressive Rossby waves on a sphere. Journal of Computational Physics, 217(2), 845-865.
Clarke, J., Huntingford, C., Ritchie, P., & Cox, P. (2021). The compost bomb instability in the continuum limit. The European Physical Journal Special Topics, 1-7.
Kepert, J. (2001). The dynamics of boundary layer jets within the tropical cyclone core. Part I: Linear theory. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 58(17), 2469-2484.
Kepert, J., & Wang, Y. (2001). The dynamics of boundary layer jets within the tropical cyclone core. Part II: Nonlinear enhancement. Journal of the atmospheric sciences, 58(17), 2485-2501.
Rietkerk, M., Bastiaansen, R., Banerjee, S., van de Koppel, J., Baudena, M., & Doelman, A. (2021). Evasion of tipping in complex systems through spatial pattern formation. Science, 374(6564), eabj0359.
Ritchie, P. D., Alkhayuon, H., Cox, P. M., & Wieczorek, S. (2023). Rate-induced tipping in natural and human systems. Earth System Dynamics, 14(3), 669-683.
Slyman, K., Gemmer, J. A., Corak, N. K., Kiers, C., & Jones, C. K. (2023). Tipping in a Low-Dimensional Model of a Tropical Cyclone. arXiv preprint arXiv:2307.15583.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Courtney Quinn


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $31,500 per annum (2023 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.

Other funding opportunities and fees

For further information regarding other scholarships on offer, and the various fees of undertaking a research degree, please visit our Scholarships and fees on research degrees page.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Ensure your eligibility for the scholarship round by referring to our Key Dates.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Undergraduate degree in Mathematics, Geophysics, or related discipline

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience in mathematical coding language such as MATLAB or Python

Application process

  1. Select your project, and check that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria, including citizenship;
  2. Contact Dr Courtney Quinn to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. In your application:
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • Submit a signed supervisory support form, a CV including contact details of 2 referees and your project research proposal.
  4. Apply prior to 25 September 2023.

Full details of the application process can be found under the 'How to apply' section of the Research Degrees website.

Following the closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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