Collaboration to beat climate change

With climate change having a huge impact on the decisions and policies we make, never more has the need for collaboration been key. And at the forefront is the Joint Weather and Climate Research Programme, a groundbreaking collaboration between NERC and the Met Office. But how does it really work? And how can it create a better understanding of the way climate predictions are going to inform a range of vital activities, from investing in the right infrastructure to better pricing of insurance risk?

The Joint Weather and Climate Research Programme (JWCRP) was launched in March 2009. Originally called the Joint Climate Research Programme (JCRP), the JWCRP right from the start created much closer working relationships between NERC and Met Office scientists when it came to developing improved models that focused on climate change predictions on timescales of up to centuries.

JWCRP effectively has two overarching goals. The first? To sustain and grow the UK's national capability and research. And the second? To collaborate. Collaborate on a big scale, so, when it comes to major research initiatives and programmes, JWCRP will strive to align them, securing an effective impact of the research carried out, feeding the outcomes into the delivery of services of government, society and business.

Game-changing models

Already the JWCRP has improved the global climate models developed with the Met Office, but how? The answer is two-fold: core research programmes and joint facilities. From the development of a world-leading Earth System Model based on cutting-edge UK research and development (UKESM) to building a high-resolution global coupled model to improve seasonal to decadal variability and predictability (HiRig), JCWRP and its team incorporate many core research programmes, overcoming barriers to collaborative working to get results.

Underpinning the core research are the JWCRP joint facilities. The JWCRP oversees major jointly-owned infrastructure, the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) – the world-class research facility dedicated to the advancement of atmospheric science – being one example.

But another very significant one is the Met Office and NERC joint supercomputer system (MONSooN), which enables NERC and Met Office scientists to share data and develop models on the same platform. Monsoon has been a game-changer, enabling cutting-edge modelling to inform key activities and decisions.

The challenges ahead

Since JWCRP’s inception, so much has rapidly shifted. Climate change is happening at an alarming rate, and how. In 2018, research from a key NERC partnership programme was cited in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on 1·5°C warming, saying that without mitigating for climate change, sea level could rise by about a metre this century.

The rise in sea level impacting on coastal populations and ecosystems is just one example of what climate change means to us all. Already, action is being taken to reduce climate change. The 2017 £8.6 million Greenhouse Gas Removal Research Programme – a joint initiative with NERC and other funding bodies created to investigate ways to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to counteract global warming – is just one innovation example of many.

How can JWCRP create a better understanding of how climate factors and predictions  inform activities? The answer is by continuing the core research programme and using the key joint facilities to make predictions, mapping out a timetable for action and continuing the essential collaborative way of working.

NERC Executive Chair, Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, agrees. Last year, as ambitious delivery plans were published outlining how UKRI will work with its partners to ensure world-leading research and innovation continues to grow in the UK, Professor Wingham said: “As part of UKRI, NERC will continue our strong tradition of commissioning excellent research, supporting the UK's world-leading universities and research institutions, and forming strong partnerships to secure the funding to do so. With significant and rising public support for our science as a core part of societal responses to environmental and economic challenges, the coming years represent an exciting time for environmental science in the UK and beyond.”

It’s this overarching commitment from all JWCRP organisations to joint working that will underpin 
the way forward. As the impact on society of hazardous weather and other environmental pressures increases, the need for more complete predictions is greater than ever to help us make more informed decisions, protecting society, and enabling economic growth. And JWCRP and its collaborative global climate models are right at the centre.

Chart - how climate factors and predictions inform decisions

Collaboration in action

The need:
Create an integrated approach to forecasting more accurate weather predictions and the warning of natural hazards. Use this to develop more complete environmental predictions to help society make informed decisions that ultimately protect lives, livelihoods and property, facilitating social and economic prosperity.

The answer:
Collaborating as JWCRP, the Met Office, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, National Oceanography Centre and Plymouth Marine Laboratory began to work on the base of a coupled high-resolution probabilistic forecast system for the UK to the nearest kilometre.

The outcome: 
A research framework has been created to offer a unique new research tool for UK environmental science. Ongoing work will build on these foundations through Phase 2 work, delivering new research and pull-through to impact.

Fast facts: Monsoon

MONSooN (an almost-acronym for Met Office and NERC joint supercomputer system) delivers supercomputing infrastructure to enable collaboration between NERC and Met Office scientists. It’s a common computing platform, providing post-processing capability, fast data links and access to data archives.

The Monsoon service began on 1 December 2009.

One word: advancement. By scientists having access to Monsoon, climate change modelling results can be shared, as well as developing joint software. All this can then help JWCRP and NERC scientists to change and inform key activities for future planning and policymaking.

Scientists can use Monsoon to run climate change scenario simulations based on their specific area of research, helping them to predict, change and inform.