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Job advertisement PhD Position on "Urban Heat Mitigation through Subsurface Heat Recycling"

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European Geosciences Union

PhD Position on "Urban Heat Mitigation through Subsurface Heat Recycling"

PhD Position on "Urban Heat Mitigation through Subsurface Heat Recycling"

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology logo

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

You will be part of a newly formed junior research group at the Institute of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (IPF) located at the main campus of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Campus Süd), right next to the 300-year-old Karlsruhe Palace. IPF combines competence in computer vision, remote sensing, geoinformatics, and active sensing and is therefore the perfect home for an interdisciplinary project using methods of large-scale geospatial data analysis. You will be the third member of a growing, multi‐disciplinary, highly collaborative, and young team, well connected to national and international research networks and activities. We offer you an attractive and modern workplace with access to the excellent equipment of the KIT, a varied work, a wide range of training opportunities, flexible working time models, an allowance for the job ticket BW and a casino/cafeteria.


Karlsruhe, Germany


Relevant divisions
Atmospheric Sciences (AS)
Climate: Past, Present & Future (CL)
Energy, Resources and the Environment (ERE)

Full time

Student / Graduate / Internship

75% of salary category TV-L E13, depending on the fulfillment of professional and personal requirements.

Required education

Application deadline
18 December 2022

8 November 2022

Job description

We are seeking a PhD student to investigate the impact of subsurface heat recycling on urban climate, particularly the potential to mitigate urban heat by cooling down the subsurface.

Special focus will be on the analysis of feasibility with three key questions:

  • how do climate zone and urban design play into this?
  • where in the world is heat mitigation through shallow subsurface heat recycling feasible?
  • who might benefit from it?

You will be part of a newly formed junior research group the at the Institute of Institute of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) and join (together with two other PhD students and a Postdoc) the project Large scale assessment of the effects of sustainable heat recycling in the shallow subsurface on above ground temperatures funded through the Volkswagen foundation.

The Project:

Urban overheating and a sustainable energy supply are two of the most important challenges of our time. More than 50% of the global population lives in cities and is therefore exposed to a climate shaped by the built environment. In most regions of this planet so-called urban heat islands dominate temperatures, which can threaten the health, general well-being, and productivity of local populations. At the same time, European households use more than 80% of their total energy consumption for space and water heating. Conventional methods are primarily based on fossil fuels.

While both topics are so far only considered separately, they are linked via the urban underground. Here, like above ground, temperatures are elevated representing the accumulated waste heat of the city. This waste heat can be accessed and recycled though shallow geothermal systems. Local model calculations indicate that the accumulated thermal energy often significantly exceeds the annual local space heating demand. However, there is a lack of large-scale studies, and the link between the thermal regime of the subsurface and the urban climate above ground has so far been disregarded.

This groundbreaking interdisciplinary project will combine social sciences, geo-science, and urban climatology with geospatial data science to answer the question: Can sustainable heat recycling in the subsurface help mitigate urban heat locally? This will be answer for Germany, and partially even globally, at a sub-city scale.

To meet this objective, we need to understand the fundamental mechanics linking the demand for space and water heating, the potential for heat recycling, and urban heat islands to each other. Urban heat increases the potential for heat recycling but decreases our heating demand. Heat recycling on the other hand is a sustainable source for space and water heating and can reduce subsurface temperatures. What is left to answer, are three distinct research questions:

  1. How do subsurface temperatures impact urban climate?
  2. What is the local potential for subsurface heat recycling?
  3. What is the local current and future heating demand?

Your Tasks:

You will be answering the research question How do subsurface temperatures impact urban climate?. Based on preliminary analysis in Palm-4U, the state-of-the-art-tool for modelling climate in the urban boundary layer, you will use tools of geospatial data science to map the global feasibilities of heat mitigation though shallow geothermal heat recycling.

While doing so you will gain skills and experience in

  • numerical modeling in Palm-4U (supported by collaborators at the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research at KIT)
  • big geodata analysis in python
  • processing of satellite data
  • geospatial data processing and visualization in google earth engine
  • presenting your work to an academic and lay audience
  • publishing your work in international scientific journals


You must hold a master’s degree in a discipline of relevance (e.g., environmental science, meteorology, geography, geoinformatics or others) and be willing to relocate to Karlsruhe, Germany. While German language skills are encouraged, they are not required. However, English language skills are expected. Ideally you are a creative, yet analytically thinking individual with a thirst for knowledge who values a diverse workplace.

Beneficial experience and qualities include:

  • Interest and/or experience in topics relevant to the project (e.g., urban heat, urban climate)
  • Interest and/or experience in environmental data science and statistical analysis
  • (Willingness to acquire) skills in python or a comparable program such as R or MATLAB
  • (Willingness to acquire) skills in google earth engine to create interactive maps
  • (Willingness to acquire) skills in Palm-4U
  • Interest in trans- and interdisciplinary research.

What we offer:

We offer a 3+1 year contract. During your PhD (3-years) you will be paid 75% of the Collective Agreement for the German Public Service Sector (TV-L EG13). Should you decide to stay longer we may offer a 4th year at 100%.

You will join the PhD program of the KIT-Department of Civil Engineering, Geo and Environmental Sciences where you have the option to complete your PhD as a cumulative thesis.

You are also encouraged to participate in GRACE, the Graduate School for PhD students of the KIT-Center Climate and Environment. It is the goal of GRACE to provide to its students not only highly specialized and interdisciplinary knowledge but also important key skill qualifications. GRACE also offers scholarships to PhD students for a 3-month long research stay abroad.

Furthermore, you will have access to a wide range of courses for professional development offered through the Karlsruhe House of Young Scientist (KHYS).

How to apply

If you are interested, please send your application including a cover letter, your CV, and all certificates/diplomas in electronic form to Dr. Susanne Benz (email: by Dec 18, 2022. You may also contact her with any further questions.