Dr. Sean Elvidge PhD

School of Engineering

Lecturer in Space Environment

Engineering Building,
University of Birmingham,
B15 2TT, UK


Sean Elvidge is a Lecturer in Space Environment and leads the Space Environment and Radio Engineering (SERENE) group in the School of Engineering.

Space weather events are one of the major risks facing society as it becomes increasingly dependent on technology. Sean’s research is focused on using innovative mathematical methods to create the next generation space weather forecast models. He was selected for the inaugural Forbes Europe 30 Under 30 list in the Science and Healthcare category.

Sean is a popular communicator of science on a range of topics. He frequently gives talks to groups and schools across the country, reaching over 1,500 people a year.

Lecturer in Space Environment:

  • PhD in ionospheric modelling, University of Birmingham, 2014

  • MSci (Hons) in Mathematics, University of Birmingham, 2011

Sean Elvidge qualified with an MSci (Hons) in Mathematics from the University of Birmingham in 2011. His masters project investigated complex reflection groups. During his undergraduate degree he was also a keen member of the University Astronomical Society which inspired him to shift his focus for his PhD. He studied for a PhD in ionospheric and thermospheric modelling in the School of Engineering, graduating in 2014. During his PhD Sean won a Fellowship to work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in the USA.

After his PhD Sean undertook a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Space Environment and Radio Engineering (SERENE) group at the University of Birmingham. During this time he developed the Advanced Ensemble electron density (Ne) Assimilation System (AENeAS). A physics-based data assimilation model of the Earth’s upper atmosphere. It combines state-of-the-art mathematical techniques with data sources from around the world to provide accurate and actionable forecasts of the ionosphere and thermosphere. In 2016 he was named on the inaugural Forbes Europe 30 Under 30 list in the Science and Healthcare category.

Sean was appointed as Lecturer in Space Environment in 2018 and is involved with the teaching and development of the University’s new Aerospace Engineering degree course.

Sean is also a passionate science communicator, regularly given talks on a wide variety of topics to audiences all over the UK. He is closely involved with the Villiers Park Educational Trust, who are working towards a future in which all students experience a challenging and inspirational education, leading to an improvement in social mobility in the UK.

Dr. Elvidge currently supervises:

He is always happy to consider inquiries and applications from prospective PhD students interested in topics in mathematical modelling, space weather and extreme value theory.

Prospective applicants prior to approaching Sean should prepare a short statement of proposed research (no more than two sides of A4, in addition to a CV) indicating the following:

• Identify an area of new work (what is worth pursuing?)
• Show a reasonable understanding of existing work in the field (what is the state-of-the-art?)
• Indicate that you know how to achieve the project aims (what are you specific skills and experiences that make you a suitable person to study for a PhD?)

Sean’s research is focused on two main themes: upper atmosphere forecasting and extreme statistics and risk analysis.

For forecasting, Sean is developing new models to produce accurate and actionable forecasts of the ionosphere and thermosphere (regions of the Earth’s upper atmosphere). These forecasts could be used by space weather operational centres to help protect critical systems.

Sean is also interested in using extreme value theory to rigorously determine the probability of extreme space weather events. With very few data points of extreme events it is important to appropriately quantify the future likelihood of such events.

Sean is currently the Principal Investigator on two Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk (SWIMMR) projects. SWIMMR is a £20 million, four-year programme that will improve the UK’s capabilities for space weather monitoring and prediction. The funding forms part of the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF), delivered by the UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) to drive an increase in high quality multi- and interdisciplinary research and innovation. It will ensure that UKRI’s investment links up effectively with government research priorities and opportunities.

Dr. Elvidge has a plethora of experience advising the UK Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence on issues related to space weather and the probability of extreme events. Among his experience:

  • Advice to UK Government (Ministry of Defence & Civil Contingencies Secretary) on Space Weather modelling and risk.
  • Advice on Space Weather and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) risk for UK National Risk Register.
  • Taken part in Royal Society sponsored Parliamentary Pairing Scheme – pairing scientists with senior civil servants.

Dr. Elvidge has a wide range of media experience. This work has primarily been with BBC Learning as part of Stargazing Live which has included numerous radio and television interviews.

As well as regularly advising local radio on science and astronomy topics, Sean has also written a number of articles for magazines (Space Weather Quarterly, the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications Magazine, Experimental, iSquared and Plus Magazine).

  • International Union of Radio Science (URSI) Early Career Representative
  • American Geophysical Union (AGU) Radio Science journal Associate Editor
  • URSI Council Representative to the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG)
  • Villiers Park Educational Trust: Tutor, Mentor & Charity Ambassador

Selected Publications:

  • Elvidge, S. (2020), Estimating the Occurrence of Geomagnetic Activity Using the Hilbert-Huang Transform and Extreme Value Theory, Space Weather

  • Elvidge, S.M. J. Angling (2019), Using the Local Ensemble Transform Kalman Filter for Upper Atmospheric Modelling, Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate.

  • Elvidge, S. (2018), A newly found early example of weather forecast validation, Weather.

  • Elvidge, S., M. J. Angling (2018), Using Extreme Value Theory for Determining the Probability of Carrington-Like Solar Flares, Space Weather.

  • Angling, M. J., S. Elvidge, S. B. Healy (2017), Improved model for correcting the ionospheric impact on bending angle in radio occultation measurements, Atmospheric Measurement Techniques.

  • Elvidge, S., Godinez, H. C. and Angling, M. J. (2016), Improved Forecasting of Thermospheric Densities using Multi-Model Ensembles, Geosci. Model Dev.

  • Elvidge, S., M. J. Angling, and B. Nava (2014), On the use of modified Taylor diagrams to compare ionospheric assimilation models, Radio Sci., 49, 737–745.