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Towards more integrated predictions of the UK’s environment

December 2016 - Over the last few years scientists at the Met Office have been working with colleagues at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, National Oceanography Centre and Plymouth Marine Laboratory to successfully deliver the UK Environmental Prediction Prototype project.

UK Environmental Prediction is a JWCRP NERC/Met Office collaboration aiming to develop the first high resolution regional coupled model for the UK at kilometre scale.

This research collaboration is hoping to test the idea that prediction and warning of natural hazards, such as of the impacts of severe weather through the environment, can be improved by using a more integrated approach to forecasting.

Interactions within the environment

The Met Office currently operates a number of different modelling systems aimed at predicting different components of the environment, such as the weather (atmosphere and land) forecasts, ocean forecasts, and wave forecasts.

However, it is known that in reality numerous interactions and feedbacks exist between the various physical and biogeochemical components of the environment across sky, sea and land. 

Figure 1: A schematic illustration of the coupled environmental prediction system and the potential interactions and feedbacks represented across sky, sea and land.

Unique new research tool

To enable research to take place on better understanding and simulating these feedbacks, the UK Environmental Prediction collaboration has now successfully delivered a Prototype research tool.

The UK Environmental Prediction system (UKC2) incorporates models of the atmosphere (Unified Model), land surface (JULES), shelf-sea ocean (NEMO) and ocean waves (WaveWatch III®). These components are coupled (via OASIS3-MCT libraries) at an unprecedentedly high resolution of 1.5 km across the UK and the wider north-west European regional domain.

A research framework has been established to explore the representation of feedback processes in coupled and uncoupled modes, providing a unique new research tool for UK environmental science.

Figure 2: Modelling components used within the UKC2 research system.

Research on feedbacks

Research has delivered new insights into the sensitivity of the ocean and surface waves to the representation of feedbacks to the atmosphere. Case study evaluations have also highlighted sensitivity of weather systems and boundary layer cloud development to the exchange of heat and momentum at the ocean surface modified through sea surface temperature and wave-induced roughness.

The JULES land surface model system has been enhanced, to put in place foundations to study integrated hydrological predictions from sky to sea, and sensitivity studies on selected catchments have provided more optimal parameter sets and algorithms for the UK. A new approach to interfacing with the ERSEM marine biogeochemistry model has also been tested in readiness for application within the high resolution ocean systems.

Figure 3: Cross-section of atmosphere and ocean temperatures across Ireland and the UK, showing the Atlantic, Irish Sea and North Sea.

Building on the research

Ongoing work will build on these research and technical foundations through Phase 2 (2016-2020), for which a joint Research Plan has been defined within the existing collaboration.

This seeks to consolidate the progress delivered so far and further develop national and international collaborations to exploit this new capability, to deliver new research and pull-through to impact.

Figure 4. Illustration of atmospheric, hydrology and ocean outputs from UKC2 research system.

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