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Future proofing

The Climate Science for Service Partnership China (CSSP China) is a scientific research programme - led in the UK by the Met Office - that aims to develop the climate services needed to navigate the challenges of a changing climate.

From floods and droughts to rising seas, humanity faces some serious climate-related challenges which vary on timescales from seasons to decades. While they potentially affect everyone around the world, certain regions are more vulnerable than others. One such region is East Asia, where rapid economic development and a growing population mean the impact of extreme weather events could be particularly severe.

To help the region protect itself against climate risks, the Met Office has joined forces with Chinese academic organisations, including the China Meteorological Administration and the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Working closely together, we have drawn on combined expertise and experience to develop a shared research programme that addresses some of the challenges that may lie ahead.

Professor Stephen Belcher, Head of the Met Office Hadley Centre, has played a vital role in getting the partnership off the ground. "It's one of the Met Office Hadley Centre's largest - and I would say most exciting - collaborations. Not only will the partnership develop cutting edge climate science, but it will then apply this expertise to help develop climate services that support climate-resilient growth and development," Stephen describes.

Leading the way

The Met Office is a global leader in climate science, thanks not only to cutting edge technology, but also to dedicated scientists and a network of partners across the globe. It's this position that, as Stephen explains, enables the organisation to, "reach out to other parts of the world and form the partnerships needed to strengthen our understanding, and ability to address, the challenges and opportunities presented by a changing climate."

CSSP China is supported by the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) through the Newton Fund - a recently launched fund to enable the UK to promote the economic development and social welfare of partner countries.

As a 'delivery partner' of the Newton Fund, the Met Office uses its support from BIS to work with climate scientists across the UK. In doing so the partnership draws on the 'Best of British' to promote excellence in research and innovation, and critically gets science out of the seminar room and into services that improve people's lives, safeguard their homes and livelihoods, and supports a global effort to tackle our changing climate.

Delivering internationally excellent research

Research projects for CSSP China fall into five different work packages. The first focuses on measuring the climate of East Asia. A large part of this means drawing together China's enormous observational records, including information from ships' logs going back over 100 years. It will then be a case of recording data and measurements in a uniform way, so they can be used to create a time sequence that shows how the climate has changed over the years.

The second work package takes a global perspective to look at China's climate and discover what impact global oceanic and atmospheric patterns have on the region's weather and climate variability.

The third focuses on the East Asian climate and high impact weather. Projects in this work package explore the extent to which high-resolution modelling systems could predict East Asian monsoon rainfall patterns months in advance.

The fourth work package looks, more generally, at climate projections. For instance, Professor Belcher says there's a possible opportunity to nurture something similar to the UK Climate Projections in China, working closely with their scientists. "The Chinese don't have such a unified system... so one of my ambitions is to see if there's an appetite for them to develop a set of national climate scenarios."

These work packages pave the way for the fifth work package, which will draw on the expertise and information developed in the other research strands to develop pilot climate services, based on meeting user needs. These climate services will translate world-leading science into useful services that help governments, communities, businesses and society make decisions resilient to the challenges of a changing climate and make the most of the opportunities it presents. The assessment of user needs in this work package will also influence the research across the CSSP.

The climate services could include tools for the renewable energy sector to help assess supply and demand on seasonal timescales for operations, and longer-term under a changing climate, both in terms of managing risks from a changing climate and exploiting any predictability for energy-relevant metrics. China is a major producer and consumer of staple crops, and other services could address global and local issues for food security.

China has a rapidly growing urban population and a growing number of megacities. Services could help urban decision-makers and communities prepare for risks from flooding and storm damage.

Building a strong, sustainable partnership

One of the partnership's challenges will be realising the value of scientific expertise spread across the globe. As well as coordinating around 20 different CSSP China projects across the UK, the Met Office Hadley Centre has held several workshops in China to coordinate research on both sides of the world. There's also a visiting scholars' exchange programme in place - Chinese scientists have come over to the Met Office Hadley Centre, and Met Office scientists will also work in China for extended periods.

Thinking ahead

CSSP China is expected to run for at least five years, but Professor Belcher hopes the partnership with scientific organisations in China will run far beyond that. "We are building a strong, mutually beneficial, partnership that I'm sure will last beyond the end of CSSP China," he says.

"China has an enormous range of scientific talent, and breadth of experience in tackling the challenges of climate change. Through CSSP China we are building a collaborative framework that will be the foundation for future work together. By drawing on our combined expertise, CSSP China and whatever follows, I am confident that we can provide the information and support needed to tackle a changing climate."