Arctic Research Programme
The Arctic is a region of higher than average climate change and is predicted to remain so. It represents a critical region for global environmental change and one where the UK has significant strategic interests. Understanding the drivers and feedbacks of rapid climate change in the Arctic, and predicting their scale and rate on timescales from months to decades, represents a major and urgent global scientific challenge of great societal importance.
To address these scientific uncertainties, NERC is investing £15m into a five-year Arctic Research Programme, over the period 2010-2015. The overarching aim of this programme is:
To improve our capability to predict changes in the Arctic, particularly over timescales of months to decades, including regional impacts and the potential for feedbacks on the global Earth System.
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The Arctic is a region of higher than average climate change and is predicted to remain so. The most iconic evidence of this rapid climate change is the loss of summer sea ice, with recent loss rates exceeding most model projections.
Other changes include the thawing of permafrost (perennially frozen earth), melting of land ice, including ice sheets and glaciers, and the changing physical environment of Arctic ecosystems. These can lead to major feedbacks to the climate system, having global impacts; the loss of sea ice and degradation of permafrost represent potential 'tipping points' in the Earth system.
Additionally, the widespread destabilisation of gas hydrates through melting can potentially cause marine landslides and tsunamis which could impact the Arctic, NE Atlantic and the UK.
The Arctic therefore represents a critical region for global environmental change and one where the UK has significant strategic interests. Understanding the drivers and feedbacks of this change, and predicting its scale and rate on timescales from months to decades, represents a major and urgent global scientific challenge of great societal importance.
To address these scientific uncertainties, NERC is investing £15m into a five-year Arctic Research Programme, over the period 2010-2015.
The Arctic Programme will focus on four linked scientific objectives:
- Understanding and attributing the current rapid changes in the Arctic.
- Quantifying processes leading to Arctic methane and carbon dioxide release.
- Reducing uncertainty in Arctic climate and associated regional biogeochemistry predictions.
- Assessing the likely risks of submarine hazards associated with rapid Arctic climate change.
Deliverables from this programme will include:
- New or improved models for process studies.
- Improved parameterisation of Arctic processes.
- Improved capabilities for predicting changes in the Arctic.
- Interpretation of current Arctic climate change and its implications for policymakers and Arctic communities.
To achieve these objectives and deliverables, the Arctic Research Programme will aim to harness and coordinate UK scientific expertise and facilities in these areas, and link these to other international efforts. Fieldwork is expected to be highly interdisciplinary, potentially involving campaigns on land and ice stations, from ships, aircraft and satellites. Work on understanding longer term change in the Arctic will involve sediment cores and sampling on land.
The use of a range of numerical models leading to improved predictability will be a vital element of this programme. Process-level understanding developed through observation-based work will be used to improve model components, and these will be used to test the impact of the processes on large-scale predictions. Clearly, integrated and innovative research across all science areas will be needed to achieve the programme's objectives.
It is anticipated that the Arctic Research Programme will be developed in collaboration with other nations. It will also aim to work in close collaboration with a number of UK organisations and government departments, including the UK Met Office, the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
Related events, strategies and opportunities
This research programme derives from a NERC Arctic programme community event held in May 2009 which sought community opinions on the scientific programme, and other inputs such as the NERC workshop Priorities for future UK Marine Arctic Research (PDF, 222KB) - external link.
It currently involves the following NERC environmental science themes: Earth system science, climate system, natural hazards and biodiversity. Please note, in November 2009 NERC's governing Council approved the second phase of theme action plans, outlining investments of around £80m over the next few years.
Several opportunities make this programme particularly timely including the development of the NERC polar science working group report, the opening of the NERC Arctic Office - external link, the establishment of a NERC/Canadian memorandum of understanding - external link (providing access and research collaboration opportunities), the launch of new satellites - external link and legacies of the International Polar Year partnerships.
NERC also has existing investment in the Arctic-based Ny-Ålesund field station - external link in Svalbard.
Programme Executive Board (PEB)
The Arctic Research Programme will be governed by a Programme Executive Board which is responsible for the strategic direction and management of the programme and delivery of the programme's objectives. The Programme Executive Board will be chaired by NERC and includes the following members:
- Dr Ned Garnett, head of atmospheric & polar sciences, NERC
- Professor David Thomas, Bangor University
- David Vaughan, Acting ARP science coordinator, BAS
- Jess Surma, ARP programme manager, NERC
- Miguel Martinez-Boti, Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC)
- Paul Stansfield, Foreign & Commonwealth Office representative
Programme Advisory Group (PAG)
The role of the Programme Advisory Group is to advise the Programme Executive Board on the strategic direction of the programme and integration of the programme science. The Programme Executive Board will retain responsibility for how such advice is used.
The Programme Advisory Group is made up of the following members:
- Professor David Thomas, Bangor University and the Finnish Environment Institute (Chair)
- Dr Sheldon Bacon, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
- Professor Lucy Carpenter, University of York
- Professor David Cope, Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology
- Stuart Doubleday, Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- Professor Mary Edwards, University of Southampton
- Professor Lesley Gray, University of Reading
- Dr Helene Hewitt, UK Met Office
- Dr Tom Lachlan-Cope, British Antarctic Survey
- Dr Ray Leakey, Scottish Association for Marine Science
- Professor Alexander McKean Millner, University of Birmingham
- Dr Julian Murton, University of Sussex
- Dr Clare Robinson, University of Manchester
- Dr Jeremy Wilkinson, Scottish Association for Marine Science
- Dr Mathew Williams, University of Edinburgh
- Professor Philip Wookey, University of Stirling
- Professor Ian Wright, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
In particular, the Programme Advisory Group will:
- Advise on the development of the programme plans and their execution;
- Advise on the strategic direction of the programme, including scientific content of programme and announcements of opportunity;
- Advise on effective way to achieve programme integration;
- Advise on the development of international collaborative activities and UK partnerships. including emerging and future opportunities;
- Advise on user engagement and programme impact;
- Advise on appropriate ways to monitor and evaluate the progress of the programme towards its purpose and goals.
Programme Management Team
The day-to-day management of the programme will be carried out by a Programme Management Team, who report to the Programme Executive Board. The team will comprise members of BAS and NERC Swindon Office staff:
NERC Swindon Office
Jess Surma (Programme Manager)
Arctic Research Programme Office (BAS)
David Vaughan (acting science coordinator)
Heather Martin (knowledge exchange coordinator)
Alex Tate (data coordinator)
The Arctic Research Programme reports below have details of its work.
The following documents and links are related to or give more information about this programme.