NERC announces the Hydro-JULES programme

5 October 2017

NERC has announced a major five-year investment in national capability, to develop a new generation of terrestrial hydrological models linked to, and in collaboration with, the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES) model.

JULES is a community land surface model that is used both as a standalone model and alongside the Met Office Unified Model as part of the UK Earth System Model. JULES is considered to be at the cutting edge of international land surface modelling due to continual science development and improved accessibility.

Hydro-JULES will be a c. £6 million five-year programme, funded from within NERC's national capability.

The JULES model includes terrestrial Earth system components such as dynamic vegetation, carbon and nitrogen cycling, as well as representations of the land-atmosphere interactions of water and energy. NERC national capability provides direct support to its centres for JULES activities, including the Earth System Modelling and UK Environmental Prediction projects, as well as other related research, for technical development and management with partners.

The Hydro-JULES research programme will begin in April 2018 and is supported by national capability funding to the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), the British Geological Survey and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS).

A primary objective of Hydro-JULES will be to generate a three-dimensional model of the complete terrestrial water cycle in such a way as to ensure consistency across space and timescales. Through the development of new models that better simulate the movement of water both vertically and laterally, advances in land surface-boundary layer science will be made. This project will be in collaboration with national and international organisations, universities and institutes working on the development of the JULES model.

CEH will appoint a Hydro-JULES Programme Leader, who will have an established reputation for delivering research excellence and a proven track record of attracting external funds. This role will be responsible for the science direction and leadership of a multi-disciplinary team of up to 10 staff to advance physically-based land hydrology and integrated modelling of the UK at high resolution.

The appointed project leader will bring together a world-class team in data assimilation and modelling of the driving processes for land surface feedbacks, meteorology, hydrology, soil water, groundwater, water management, inundation, enhanced river routing and advancement of soil-water evapotranspiration physics. The team, led from CEH Wallingford, will deliver a major advance in land surface and hydrological science to fully represent the terrestrial water cycle in models. As a part of the programme, JULES and related models will be developed to allow coupling to incorporate state-of-the-art hydrological components and, on behalf of NERC, the programme leader will work closely with the JULES community on the science developments.

The detailed planning of the programme activities will be developed at community workshops once the programme leader is appointed. Key external partners to this programme include Reading University and the UK Met Office.

The job advert - external link - can be found on the CEH website.


Further information

Mark Bailey
Director, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology


Hydro-JULES: Next generation land surface and hydrological prediction

Background: Summary of NERC Council recommendations, December 2016

It is recognised that the UK is a world leader in weather and climate science and its modelling, for example the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES) model. However, the various elements of the terrestrial hydrological cycle, from evapotranspiration and soil moisture to river flows and groundwater reservoirs to inundation and coastal surges, are not well-integrated. Furthermore, there are gaps in fundamental understanding of the flow of water, both vertically and laterally, through the terrestrial system and how best to model these in a fully consistent way that conserves the water budget. While flooding is only one aspect of land hydrology, the 2016 National Flood Resilience Review (NFRR) highlighted a number of gaps in UK modelling provision that need to be addressed to improve real-time flood forecasting.

Research is therefore required to deliver an integrated modelling system that couples global weather and local rainfall through the terrestrial hydrological system to flood inundation assessments and consequent impacts. In terms of the underpinning science, the major factor limiting progress in flood (and drought) risk is the lack of an integrated system for the terrestrial water cycle. NERC, represented by its research centres, academic partners and collaborators, is the UK's leading funder of hydrological knowledge and expertise, is ideally placed to make the necessary investment for a step change in hydrology research. This will provide the basis of new studies in physically-based land hydrology and integrated modelling of the UK at high resolution.

The following overarching objectives for a new NERC national capability research programme were agreed by NERC Council:

  1. Integration of the three-dimensional terrestrial water cycle in such a way as to ensure consistency across space and timescales, in the horizontal and vertical, and ensuring conservation of water across the various components.
  2. Integration with the atmosphere to ensure consistency in evapotranspiration across the land-atmosphere interface, and full representation of the space / time heterogeneity of precipitation, which is fundamentally important for surface water flooding and the functioning of terrestrial water cycle.
  3. Integration with the coastal ocean to represent river outflows (including nutrients), estuaries and the effects of tides and storm surges.
  4. Integration of the water cycle with other key terrestrial cycles to ensure consistency in the treatment of water, heat, carbon and nitrogen cycles, which are critical for modelling and understanding the Earth system.
  5. Flexibility to constrain the terrestrial system model with observations through stand-alone testing and through the process of data assimilation.
  6. Flexibility within terrestrial system model to allow testing and inter-comparison of different approaches to specific components.
  7. Flexibility of the terrestrial system model to permit its coupling to atmospheric and other model components through standard OASIS coupling, and to permit its coupling to the Met Office Unified Model.
  8. Formal processes for quantification of uncertainty, including the propagation from driving meteorological variables through the hydrological system.

An advanced terrestrial hydrological model will be generated that couples to JULES and related models. This new five-year programme, Hydro-JULES, will be supported under NERC national capability and delivered under CEH overall management in partnership with NCAS, BGS and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC). This mirrors the successful delivery model for the NERC LTS-M Earth System Model Programme led by NCAS. Community consultation workshops to inform strategic planning and further development of JULES are a key component of this activity. It is anticipated that this will lead to future competitive NERC programmes under strategic partnership or highlight topic funding lines.