NERC invests £7 million in new strategic research programme

1 August 2016

Today, NERC announces it is investing in a new large-scale strategic research programme - the Role of the Southern Ocean in the Earth System (RoSES).

One of the greatest sources of scientific uncertainty in future climate prediction concerns the behaviour of the Southern Ocean carbon sink ie how much carbon dioxide it will absorb from the atmosphere. The Role of the Southern Ocean in the Earth System (RoSES) programme will provide the scientific basis to inform international climate policy on the role of the Southern Ocean carbon system in 21st century global climate change. Research outputs will include:

  • measuring and understanding the contemporary state of the Southern Ocean carbon sink
  • understanding and modelling how the sink operates
  • evaluating the sink's future evolution and impact on 21st century global climate change and
  • developing and reporting policy-informing metrics of the sink and its climate impacts.

NERC has recently commissioned a cross-centre National Capability (NC) programme (ORCHESTRA) focusing on a subset of the physics of heat and carbon uptake by the Southern Ocean. RoSES, a £7 million research programme, will magnify this baseline investment, addressing the biogeochemistry of the Southern Ocean carbon sink and leveraging the UK's world-leading capabilities in autonomous robotic platforms and biogeochemical micro-sensor technologies in order to deliver the required policy-relevant assessment. NERC will now develop an Announcement of Opportunity for the programme.

This strategic programme area (SPA) has emerged from the ideas process for strategic research, where NERC captures and builds on ideas for excellent strategic science coming directly from the environmental science community.

As part of this process, in February 2016 NERC announced that it was scoping three potential SPAs for assessment and funding decisions in summer 2016. Of the remaining two potential SPAs, the full case for the 'fundamental ecological research for sustainable resource exploitation in the deep ocean' SPA was not approved for funding.

The full case of the potential 'subsurface-surface coupled processes associated with UK unconventional hydrocarbon extraction' SPA is still under consideration. NERC will release more information on any potential investment in this area in due course.


Further information

Mary Goodchild
NERC media office
01793 411939
07710 147485