Understanding & Representing Atmospheric Convection across Scales

Hurricane Frances, August 2004, NASA

This programme aims to deliver better understanding of convective processes and their interactions with atmospheric flows and the translation of this understanding into new convection parameterisation schemes.

Joint Programme on Understanding & Representing Atmospheric Convection across Scales, Announcement of Opportunity: Research funding

Closing date: 9 Jul

18 May 2015

NERC and the Met Office are inviting research proposals under a new strategic research programme - Understanding and Representing Atmospheric Convection across Scales.

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Weather and climate models are critical to society's ability to reduce the impacts of hazardous weather and inform decisions regarding mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. The representation of convection remains the key error in weather and climate models, which limits our confidence in predictions and thus their value for decision-making on timescales from days to decades.

The key issue in representing convection in global models is that the resolutions of these models are too coarse to represent individual convective systems. Instead, models rely on physically based parameterizations of convection. However, these parameterizations are based on paradigms developed 30-40 years ago in which convection was represented as a one dimensional, balanced problem between atmospheric instability and the convection required to remove that instability. Much more is now known about convection, how it is intimately related to the local dynamics and how it is organised on a range of space and timescales from the diurnal cycle of precipitation to synoptic scales such as tropical storms or the Madden-Julian Oscillation. These outdated paradigms have been identified as a major blockage to more skillful and reliable weather forecasts and climate predictions, in which realistic simulations of convection and the regional water cycle are of fundamental importance.

The goal of this programme is to significantly improve the representation of convection across a range of scales (primarily 1 to 100 km grid lengths) in the UK's weather, climate and Earth system modelling systems. The programme aims to deliver better understanding of convective processes and their interactions with atmospheric flows and the translation of this understanding into new convection parameterization schemes.

The new approaches are likely to include an improved representation of:

  • the fluid dynamics of convection itself, including entrainment, downdraughts, cold pools, and gravity waves;
  • the temporal and spatial scales of convection;
  • the role of additional processes in controlling the organisation and location of convection;
  • the interaction of convection with the larger-scale atmospheric flow; and
  • the way in which new convection parameterizations interact with the model dynamics, in particular within the Met Office Unified Model.

These are therefore likely key topics in the science programme. However, the exact scope of the research will be determined through consultation with the science community at the workshop.

This programme seeks to bring together expertise from both the NERC and Met Office community to deliver strategic, world-leading research aimed at making a step change in our ability to predict weather and climate impacts.


2015 - 2020

Can I apply for a grant?

No, there are no current funding opportunities for this programme.


NERC has committed £5 million, with resources being matched by the Met Office.

Programme awards

Award details are shown in our online grants browser - Grants on the Web.

View details of funded applications - external link