Dr Gillian Young

Dr Gillian Young


Current project:

  • Microbiology-Ocean-Cloud Coupling in the High Arctic (MOCCHA; University of Leeds): modelling clouds measured during the Arctic Ocean 2018 expedition, using a suite of remote sensing instrumentation aboard the Swedish icebreaker Oden, with the Met Office Unified Model (UM). I am currently evaluating the model’s operational performance with comparison to the ECMWF Integrated Forecasting System and the UM coupled with the Cloud AeroSol Interactive Microphysics (CASIM) scheme.

Previous projects:

  • Microphysics of Antarctic Clouds (MAC; British Antarctic Survey): modelling Antarctic cloud physics with the Weather Research and Forecasting model, with a focus on understanding how secondary ice production in these clouds affects cloud radiative forcing by using spatiotemporal aircraft measurements for guidance. 
  • Aerosol-Cloud Coupling and Climate Interations in the Arctic (ACCACIA; University of Manchester): using the Met Office Large Eddy Model, I conducted various high-resolution studies of how Arctic mixed-phase clouds respond to small-scale internal, and larger-scale external, changes. I also developed analysis software to categorise aerosol particle composition measurements – made using Scanning Electron Microscopy coupled with Energy-Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy – into atmospherically-relevant aerosol species, in addition to using a suite of aircraft instruments to investigate microphysical changes of low-level clouds as cold Arctic airmasses move from over the sea ice to the comparatively-warm ocean.


  • Chair / co-founder of QuIESCENT Arctic (Quantifying the Indirect Effect: from Sources to Climate Effects of Natural and Transported aerosol in the Arctic) initiative. The QuIESCENT Arctic platform provides a forum to discuss advances in our knowledge of Arctic aerosol-cloud interactions from recent measurement campaigns and facilitate coordination with the modelling community to implement this new understanding in the numerical models we use to predict the effects of Arctic Amplification and climate change.
  • Member: PACES (air Pollution in the Arctic: Climate, Environment, and Societies) scientific steering committee
  • Secretary: International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) Atmosphere Working Group
  • Member: Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Antarctic Clouds and Aerosols action group

Research interests

As a cloud physicist, I study the small-scale interactions in polar clouds which drive their development, evolution, and lifetime. I've used a number of numerical models – at large eddy simulation, numerical weather prediction, and global scales – to conduct detailed studies of the physical processes within Arctic and Antarctic clouds.

The interaction between aerosol particles and clouds is a key uncertainty in general circulation models, and I am interested in the how these interactions affect cloud microphysical properties in the unique polar environment. Polar clouds differ from their mid-latitude counterparts in a number of ways but, most importantly, they are often mixed-phase (containing both liquid cloud droplets and ice crystals), long-lived, and therefore very difficult to model. I use observations to develop the representation of present-day polar clouds in high-resolution numerical models, improving our understanding of the small-scale physical processes which occur within them and enabling us to make judgements about how they may be affected by a changing climate. A key problem with making predictions of polar clouds is their microphysical sensitivity to different particle sources and meteorological forcings, both of which large-scale models fail to capture correctly. Polar aerosol sources range from local to distant – via long-range transport pathways – thus adding further complexity into understanding aerosol-cloud interactions: if we don’t know what aerosol are there, then we cannot truly understand how important they are in influencing the clouds in the region.

Or, to summarise:

  • Polar cloud microphysics
  • Boundary layer dynamics
  • Aerosol-cloud-radiation interactions
  • Arctic and Antarctic aerosol chemistry
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Atmospheric Physics (2016): University of Manchester
  • MSci Physics and Astronomy (2013): University of Glasgow

Professional memberships

  • Early Career Fellow: International Arctic Science Committee (Atmosphere Working Group)
  • Member: European Geosciences Union (EGU)

Research groups and institutes

  • Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science
  • Atmospheric and Cloud Dynamics