Drivers of Variability in Atmospheric Circulation

Upper Chorlton Road in the summer rain - Whalley Range, Manchester

Improved prediction of the European climate is critical for the UK. The impacts of unusual weather episodes such as the 2003 heat wave, 2010 cold winter and 2012 wet summer were felt across society and the economy. Recent developments in observation, modelling and data reanalyses provide an exceptional scientific opportunity to increase understanding of the causes and predictability of these unusual seasons.

This £2·5 million programme will establish the underlying processes and mechanisms that underpin regional climate variability, assess the representation of those processes in climate models, and develop improvements to the models and hence regional climate predictions from months to years ahead.

Drivers of Variability in Atmospheric Circulation Announcement of Opportunity: European Climate

Closing date: 23 Jan
2014

14 Nov 2013

Outline proposals are invited for a new research programme - Drivers of Variability in Atmospheric Circulation: European Climate.

We experience the climate primarily as weather that changes from day to day, but existing climate models tend to focus on average conditions over time. For example, they might represent an unusually cold UK winter simply as 'normal' winter conditions with slightly cooler temperatures throughout, when in fact it is characterised by long spells of extreme cold, interspersed with warmer cyclonic periods.

These changes of circulation dominate the climate over periods of seasons to decades, and it has even been suggested that the regional effects of greenhouse gas-induced warming may be experienced primarily through changes in atmospheric circulation regimes.

Thus changes in the statistics of regional atmospheric circulation are an important element in climate prediction on all timescales. This Research Programme will deliver focused research aimed at improved understanding, modelling and prediction of variability in atmospheric circulation.

Substantial recent research has established connections between climate drivers and regional circulation anomalies, leading to the prospect of increased climate predictability. Drivers include:

  • anthropogenic climate forcings (greenhouse gases, aerosols)
  • natural climate forcings (solar variability, volcanic aerosols)
  • slowly varying internal variability (eg El Nino-Southern Oscillation)
  • teleconnections (ie dynamic links with climate events in remote regions).

In many cases the links between the drivers and the regional climate anomaly of interest are mediated through remote parts of the climate system (eg the ocean or the stratosphere), and may involve dynamic, thermodynamic or biogeochemical processes.

To realise the potential of these connections for regional climate prediction, the underlying mechanisms must first be understood and then included in climate models. In some cases competing hypotheses exist for operating mechanisms, in which case more detailed diagnostic work using observations, reanalyses and high resolution modelling are required.

The approach in this programme is to establish the underlying processes and mechanisms that underpin regional climate variability and change, to assess the representation of those processes in climate models, and to develop improvements to the models and hence regional climate predictions from months to years ahead.

Much work to date has focused on winter climate variability. Drivers of summer variability and their dynamics may be more complex and difficult to predict, but a number of possible mechanisms have been proposed. Research on variability in all seasons is within the scope of this research programme. However, in recognition of the opportunities, importance and relatively under-researched status of summer variability there will be a (non-exclusive) emphasis on studies of summer variability.

Insights from this programme will deliver improved climate models and forecasting capability for Europe. This capability underpins the development of climate services for a wide range of stakeholders. Working in partnership with the Met Office will allow new understanding to feed through into improved models and operational prediction systems.

Timing

2014 - 2018

Can I apply for a grant?

No, you are no longer able to apply for the programme as outlines have been received on 23 January 2014.

Budget

This programme has a budget of £2·5 million from NERC.

Programme awards

Award details are shown in our online grants browser - Grants on the Web.

View live details of funded applications - external link