Unified Model

Seamless modelling, whereby a single model family can be used for prediction across a range of timescale (from weather forecasting to climate change), has been at the heart of the Met Office strategy for weather and climate prediction.

The Unified Model (UM) is a numerical model of the atmosphere used for both weather and climate applications. The UM is in continuous development by the Met Office and its partners, adding state of the art understanding of atmospheric processes to new releases.

A seamless modelling approach

The UM applies a "seamless" modelling approach, which means that the same dynamical core and, where possible, the same parameterization schemes are used across a broad range of spatial and temporal scales on a traceable frame work (see figure on the right). The model is suitable for numerical weather prediction (NWP), seasonal forecasting and climate modelling with forecast times ranging from a few days to hundreds of years. Furthermore, the UM can be used both as a global and a regional model. Other benefits of the seamless approach include:

  • Efficiency - Developing one system for multiple uses reduces development effort and allows improvements made for climate science to be applied in our weather forecasting systems, and vice-versa.
  • Understanding - Short-range forecasts can be used for learning about error growth and help study the performance of long term climate simulations. Likewise, studying the long-range climatology of the model helps constrain and understand the physical processes used in short-range NWP forecasts.
  • Robustness - Using the same model for regional and global modelling gives confidence that the driving mechanisms are consistent.

The dynamical core

The model's dynamical core solves the compressible non-hydrostatic equations of motion with semi-lagrangian advection and semi-implicit time stepping. Sub-grid scale processes such as convection, boundary layer turbulence, radiation, cloud, microphysics and orographic drag are represented by parameterizations. The model uses a grid point discretization on a latitude-longitude grid system with a rotated pole.

How can you use the Unified Model?

The Unified Model is available for use outside the Met Office through a licensing agreement aimed at meeting the needs of the user. A number of research organisations and national meteorological services use the UM in collaboration with the Met Office to undertake basic atmospheric process research, produce forecasts, develop the Unified Model code and build and evaluate earth system models.

As part of the Joint Weather and Climate Research Program (JWCRP) between the Met Office and NERC, the UM is also  available for use on the MONSooN High Performance Computing facility to improve collaboration between scientists funded by the two organisations. MONSooN is a shared development platform which provides users with the technical knowledge as well as the ability to run experiments with standard UM configurations. For more information about MONSooN visit the JWCRP page.

Further information on the use of the Unified Model, as well as the opportunities and support available for collaboration can be found on the Met Office Unified Model collaboration page. For access to model output contact the Met Office enquiries team.

More information on the Unified Model

Different systems of the UM are available, customized for resolution and application. The systems used at the Met Office are described in the pages linked below.

Last updated: 23 August 2016

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