With a new ERC-grant in 2023 senior researcher João Mendonça at DTU Space will develop an unprecedented climate prediction model for planets. (Illustration: NASA, ESA, CSA, and J. Olmsted, STScI)

DTU Space scientist will use new grant to develop an unprecedented climate model for planets

Senior researcher and astrophysicist João Mendonça at DTU, the Technical University of Denmark, has been awarded a DKK 15 million ERC Consolidator Grant, for his project Foundation. The new project aims to develop a universal climate model to improve climate predictions on Earth and other planets, including extreme weather events.

With the attractive grant João Mendonça can go further in-depth in his fields of specialization for the next five years and basic research in astrophysics at DTU will be strengthened.

“Planetary climate models are essential for understanding Earth's climate while also being windows into the planetary climates that may exist throughout the Universe,” explains João Mendonça.

“The goals of the project include unveiling the mysteries of the atmospheres in our Solar System and studying the climate of terrestrial exoplanets. The latter being planets that revolve around a star, like our Earth revolves around the Sun”.

Via Portugal and Oxford to DTU

João Mendonça comes from Portugal and obtained his PhD degree at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom in 2013. He joined DTU Space in 2017.

His approach to astrophysics is based on interest in theoretical and mathematical, physical modeling of climate systems.

”I have always been fascinated by weather phenomena and the formation of storms on Earth. During my childhood in the small town of Vidigueira in the south of Portugal, I used to spend hours gazing at the sky with my brothers, searching for the signs of storms brewing", says João Mendonça.

Starting a new generation of climate models

This Foundation project has been a long-term goal for him.

It will involve studying the fundamental physics that drives weather patterns, not only on Earth but also on other planets. To pursue his goal he is now expanding his team of scientists at DTU Space.

 "We will develop a model capable of simulating planetary atmospheres to an unprecedented level of accuracy and realism. It will incorporate artificial intelligence, AI, to create a robust virtual laboratory for planets,” says João Mendonça.

”This project has the potential to revolutionize the way we study planetary atmospheres, including exoplanets, and it will usher in a new generation of climate models".