RAPID Climate Change - Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (RAPID-AMOC)

Deploying equipment from ship

Observations of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation

RAPID-AMOC builds on the RAPID and RAPID-WATCH programmes and will extend the time series of the strength and structure of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) to 16 years. Observing and understanding the changes in the AMOC is critically important for identifying the mechanisms of decadal climate variability and change, and for interannual-to-decadal climate prediction. Sustained observations are also critical for assessing the possibility of abrupt change in the AMOC that are known to occur in palaeoclimate records.

ACSIS – OSNAP – RAPID joint science meeting

Closing date: 20 Aug

6 Mar 2017

A meeting bringing together scientists from three UK programmes and the wider UK science community to explore change and variability in the North Atlantic climate system (atmosphere, ocean and cryosphere) is being held on 19-21 September 2017 at Wolfson College, Oxford.

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The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a critical element in the energy balance of the global climate system. The AMOC consists of a near-surface, warm northward flow of ocean water, compensated by a colder southward return flow at depth. This heat is transferred from the ocean to the atmosphere at mid-latitudes, with a substantial impact on climate and, in particular, on that of the UK and northwest Europe.

Observing and understanding changes in the AMOC is critically important for identifying the mechanisms of decadal climate variability and change, and for interannual-to-decadal climate prediction. This includes predicting changes in the location, frequency and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes, storms in the North Atlantic and over Europe, shifts in tropical and European precipitation patterns, and the response of sea level to changing radiative forcing. Sustained observations are also critical for assessing the possibility of abrupt change in the AMOC that are known to occur in palaeoclimatic records.

Since 2004 the NERC RAPID and RAPID-WATCH programmes, in partnership with the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US, have supported a pioneering observing system to continuously measure the AMOC. The key component of RAPID is the 26·5°N observing system, based on a unique trans-basin array of moored instruments. This measures the basin-wide strength and vertical structure of the AMOC, and its components.

Observations from the 26·5°N array have already revolutionised understanding of AMOC variability, and documented its variability on seasonal-to-interannual timescales. The first few years of observations, demonstrated the feasibility of AMOC measurement, provided new insights into the seasonal cycle, and allowed apparent trends in previous historical snapshots to be put into context.

More recently, from autumn 2009 to spring 2010 the 26·5°N array revealed a substantial weakening of the AMOC, with a second weakening event in late 2010. These events coincided with record low states of the North Atlantic Oscillation, and cold winter conditions over Europe.

The AMOC anomalies would not have been detected without the presence of the array, and the possible role of the AMOC anomalies in these cold winters is currently a topic of active research. Anomalies of this magnitude are not seen in state-of-the-art climate models, calling into question the reliability of these models to serve as guides for future behaviour of the AMOC.

The value of the array is likely to increase further as the length of the record increases, a more robust picture of the year-to-year variations of the AMOC develops, and perhaps further surprises emerge.

The programme's main objective is:

To determine the variability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), and its links to climate and to the ocean carbon sink, on interannual-to-decadal time scales.

This will be achieved through the continued support of the 26·5°N array and by targeting three key uses of the data arising from the array:

  • application of array data for improved ocean state estimation
  • use of array data to understand the role of the AMOC in climate variability and predictability
  • addition of biogeochemical sensors to the array and use to constrain biogeochemical fluxes.


2013 - 2020

Can I apply for a grant?

No. The first call for funding closed on 20 February 2014; details of awards will be made available after the funding decision has been made. A copy of the Announcement of Opportunity is available below.

Announcement of Opportunity (PDF, 242KB)


This programme has a budget of £8·4 million.

Programme awards

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

View details of RAPID-AMOC funded grants - external link

Programme Executive Board (PEB)

The RAPID-AMOC research programme will be managed by NERC Swindon Office. The PEB will be chaired by NERC and the membership will include a representative from the Met Office.

Programme Advisory Group (PAG)

The Programme Advisory Group (PAG) will advise the PEB on the delivery of the RAPID-AMOC research programme and will work closely with the Science Coordinator and the Knowledge Exchange Coordinator.

Programme Advisory Group membership:

  • Professor David Anderson (Chair)
  • Professor Harry Bryden, University of Southampton
  • Dr Stuart Cunningham, The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS)
  • Professor Dr Torsten Kanzow, Alfred Wegener Institute
  • Dr Jochem Marotzke, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology
  • Professor David Marshall, University of Oxford
  • Dr Mike McPhaden, NOAA
  • Dr Parvadha Suntharalingam, University of East Anglia
  • Professor Rowan Sutton, University of Reading
  • Dr Richard Wood, Met Office Hadley Centre

Programme Management Team (PMT)

  • Dr Mike Webb (Programme Manager), NERC
  • Nicola Lewis (Programme Administrator), NERC
  • Jessica Surma (Programme Coordinator), NERC
  • Professor Meric Srokosz (Science Coordinator), National Oceanography Centre
  • Dr Val Byfield (Deputy Science Coordinator), National Oceanography Centre