Dr Gillian Young

Dr Gillian Young


I joined the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science in March 2019 as a polar cloud modeller from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). At BAS, I worked within the Atmosphere, Ice, and Climate science team on the Microphysics of Antarctic Clouds NERC-funded campaign. My role involved modelling Antarctic cloud physics with the Weather Research and Forecasting model, with a focus on how secondary ice production in these clouds can affect cloud radiative forcing. 

Prior to BAS, I completed my PhD in Arctic cloud physics at the University of Manchester's Centre for Atmospheric Science in 2016, as part of the Aerosol-Cloud Coupling And Climate Interactions in the Arctic (ACCACIA) campaign. 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 worked with aircraft measurements during ACCACIA: I 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.

Now, I've switched back to the Arctic in my current role, and am modelling clouds observed aboard the Swedish icebreaker Oden during the Microbiology-Ocean-Cloud Coupling in the High Arctic (MOCCHA) campaign with the Met Office Unified Model. After evaluating the model's ability to reproduce Arctic clouds, I'll move on to developing their representation in the model using the Cloud AeroSol Interactive Microphysics scheme.

Outside of my official appointments, I'm active in the Arctic and Antarctic international atmospheric science communities. I'm involved with the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Antarctic Clouds and Aerosols action group and am an International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) Early Career Fellow with their Atmosphere Working Group. Through IASC I have become a member of the PACES (air Pollution in the Arctic: Climate, Environment, and Societies) steering committee and, together with IASC and PACES colleagues, we've founded a new PACES science programme focusing on Arctic aerosol-cloud interactions, called QuIESCENT Arctic (Quantifying the Indirect Effect: from Sources to Climate Effects of Natural and Transported aerosol in the Arctic). 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.

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, covering spatial and temporal scales from large eddy simulations to numerical weather prediction, 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 allowing 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 can’t truly understand how important they are in influencing the clouds in the region.

Or, to summarise:

  • Polar cloud microphysics and dynamics
  • Aerosol-cloud-radiation interactions
  • Arctic and Antarctic aerosol chemistry
  • Machine learning/Big Data
<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)
  • Member: American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Research groups and institutes

  • Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science