Met Office Academic Partnership

Working in partnership

8 November 2013

The Met Office Academic Partnership (MOAP) has been encouraging collaboration between Exeter, Leeds and Reading universities and the Met Office since 2010. The involvement of new partner the University of Oxford now opens up more exciting possibilities.

It's undisputed that Britain is home to many of the world's finest meteorological minds. MOAP was set up by the Met Office to bring this research expertise together. The goal is to enable UK academic scientists to better tackle today's challenges in weather, climate science and prediction.

The Met Office funds an academic chair based in each MOAP partner university and each appointee liaises with a counterpart Met Office co-chair. Lead representatives from partners and the Met Office then link up to take topics forward, streamline communications and ensure the partnership remains focussed.

The result is innovative, cost-effective collaboration that doesn't just make the most of resources to maximise research impact, but also plays a vital role in developing the science leaders of tomorrow.

Bright ideas: MOAP achievements to date


ENDGame improves the dynamical core of the Met Office Unified Model - strengthening its accuracy, robustness and scalability.

Scheduled to be operational in 2013/14, the improvement draws on the University of Exeter's expertise using environmental statistics to quantify uncertainty with an emphasis on rare and extreme events.

The Forecast Evaluation for Water and Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa (FEWAS)

FEWAS aims to provide end-to-end studies of forecast impact in Africa, on daily to seasonal timescales.

The Africa College at the University of Leeds is providing administrative support for the proposal's development; the University of Reading is contributing with seasonal to sub-seasonal predictions.

Modelling high impact, convective storms

The University of Reading continues to stretch the boundaries of what can be modelled reliably, with a special focus on representing complex turbulent flows such as thunderstorms.

The Dynamical and Microphysical Evolution of Convective Storms (DYMECS) project uses the Chilbolton high-resolution radar to make tens of thousands of measurements of the 3D structure of convective storms over many events. These are then analysed and statistically compared against equivalent data and the operational model, to test improvements to the treatment of cloud, precipitation and turbulence.

Bottom-up philosophy places scientists centre stage

"One of the partnership's biggest strengths is its 'bottom up' approach," explains MOAP manager Chiara Piccolo, who also works in Data Assimilation and Ensembles research. "Usually, partnerships involve universities setting the research agenda. But our route brings together world-class scientists to answer their own questions."

"This route brings together world-class scientists to answer their own questions."

One of the partnership's original objectives was to encourage new thinking in areas that played to each university's strengths. These included earth sciences at Exeter, atmospheric observation/chemistry and process research at Leeds, and high-resolution regional and local forecasting modelling at Reading.

"However, there's more subject overlap now than when we began,'' says Chiara. "So we're encouraging more collaboration on cross-partnership projects - especially through events such as our annual 'Super RAP' research advisory panel."

For example, Super RAP 2012 saw partner scientists agree to collaborate on an initiative termed the Forecast Evaluation for Water and Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa. The pioneering 'FEWAS' project (see more on partner achievements opposite) will see a full proposal for providing end-to-end studies of forecast impact in Africa published in November 2013.

Newest partner already reaping benefits

While existing MOAP members continue to find new ways to pool expertise through the Met Office, the addition of four departments from the University of Oxford now significantly boosts the partnership's capabilities. Coordinated through Oxford climate physicist Professor Peter Read and Met Office lead John Eyre, it brings together experts specialising in atmospheric pollution and planetary physics, earth sciences, geography and maths.

"The Oxford departments are already doing some exceptional work - made possible through new lines of communication," adds Chiara. "They conduct groundbreaking research representing uncertainty in weather and climate models - and have an especially strong ocean modelling group."

Other pioneering Oxford research explores climate risks, decisions and services, plus remote sensing and composition interactions.

Developing careers, expanding knowledge

Met Office Academic Partnership- developing careers As well as increasing scientific understanding, MOAP promotes training and exchanges. For example, 2012 saw five new studentships at Leeds, two Met Office staff undertake the Exeter MSc in Climate Change Impacts and Feedbacks, and a further two staff study for PhDs through Exeter. Other educational successes include funding for a new post-doctoral research assistant plus Met Office staff secondments at Leeds.

So where next for MOAP? Coordinator Chiara Piccolo describes a policy of consolidation and managed evolution.

"It takes a lot of time and work to get a new university on board," she says. "So we'll now be putting all our efforts into encouraging the newly expanded partnership to work with each other - to provide really focussed science benefits."

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