Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Improving model representation of turbulent atmospheric processes

Apply for funding to improve forecasts of extreme weather events and help the UK better manage weather-related risk using:

  • research into atmospheric turbulent processes
  • representations in kilometre (km) and sub-kilometre (sub-km) scale weather and climate models.

Standard NERC eligibility rules apply.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to:

  • £1.125 million for a ‘science theme’ project
  • £1.875 million for an ‘observational component’ project.

NERC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Projects must start by 10 February 2023 and last no longer than 48 months.

If we fund your project, you will need to work with the Met Office.

Who can apply

Standard eligibility rules apply. Research grants are open to:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-approved independent research organisations
  • eligible public sector research establishments
  • catapults.

Check if your organisation is eligible for funding.

Principal investigators must meet the eligibility criteria in section C of the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

You may be involved in no more than two proposals submitted to this funding opportunity. Only one of these may be as the lead principal investigator.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

NERC values diversity, equity and inclusion across all its funding programmes, and actively encourages proposals from diverse groups of researchers.

NERC is committed to creating and sustaining a positive, fair and inclusive environment for our research community to ensure that all candidates feel welcomed, included and valued. We will seek to go beyond our statutory duties and be a beacon for diversity across the environmental science community. Achieving a high level of diversity within the NERC community provides an excellent foundation and environment for research and innovation priorities to flourish, and actively encourages proposals from diverse groups of researchers.

What we're looking for

Programme scope

This programme seeks to improve the understanding of atmospheric turbulent processes and their representation in kilometre (km) and sub-kilometre (sub-km) scale weather and climate models to:

  • improve forecasts of extreme weather events
  • enhance the UK’s management of vulnerability, risk and resilience.

The accuracy and value of weather and climate models can be improved by increasing their horizontal resolution so that grid boxes are kilometres (or in some cases hundreds of metres) in length, giving better representation of the surface terrain and simultaneously capturing cloud-scale motions and long-range atmospheric flows.

By moving to km and sub-km resolutions, turbulent processes in the atmosphere start to become partially resolved, with energy needing to be exchanged between the resolved grid and the sub-grid physics (a problem known as modelling in the ‘grey zone’). In addition, as turbulent motions are inherently stochastic, the atmosphere carries chaotic uncertainty that needs to be represented in order to provide value to decision makers.

Methods for modelling turbulence in this ‘grey zone’ are still in their infancy, with key problems being the lack of model convergence at different resolutions, and the unrealistic emergence of structures (aliasing) onto the grid scale, leading to systematic biases in projections (for example, excessive rainfall at the wrong time). A faithful representation of its effects is vital for ensuring the accuracy of predictions of severe weather, such as intense rainfall, heat extremes and damaging winds.

This programme:

  • aims to combine new observational data and process modelling of the atmosphere with theoretical developments to improve model representations of boundary layer and convective moist turbulence appropriate for km and sub-km scales.
  • will focus exclusively towards improving Met Office weather and climate models.

Modelling activity unrelated to this purpose is not in the scope of this programme.

Funded projects will work closely with the Met Office to ensure developments are aligned with improving the Met Office Unified Model, and your proposals will need to demonstrate how the research stands to contribute to making improvements at these scales.

The improvements should offer better realism for any given forecast, and the stochastic properties enabling it to provide better probabilistic forecasts.

UK summertime convection will be the focus of observations for the programme.

Your proposal can either focus on:

  • at least one of the three science themes
  • the observational component.

Science themes

Theme A: boundary layer evolution

As the model grid size approaches length scales of turbulence in the boundary layer, there is a need to represent the transition towards the three-dimensional behaviour of turbulent mixing in a way that accurately captures the transfer of energy between the scales (resolved and the sub-grid).

This theme looks to understand and represent that behaviour across the full range of boundary layer regimes, model grid spacings and dynamics, while capturing the stochastic nature of the flows.

Theme B: moist convective turbulence

Current models at these scales can incorrectly represent convection, leading to systematic biases affecting the evolution and timing of precipitation production.

To improve forecasts of the timing and intensity of rainfall, this theme addresses the need to represent moist-convective physics in a scale-sensitive and stochastic way, by seeking to improve modelling of convective structures at km and sub-km resolutions in order to produce a seamless representation on convective behaviour across model scales.

Applications to this theme should focus on improving predictions of convective dynamics and precipitation across the full range of synoptic regimes. You will need to take into account:

  • model grid dimensions
  • dynamics
  • capturing the stochastic nature of these flows.

Theme C: stochastic processes for ensemble forecasting

Related to themes A and B, there is a requirement to improve the stochastic behaviour of physical processes in models to provide accurate estimates of uncertainty in predictions.

There are two aspects you may consider (although your application does not need to cover both):

  • determining how best to represent the stochastic behaviour of the turbulence at these model scales (km and sub-km)
  • characterising how the stochastic representation of the turbulent processes in the model influences the divergence of forecast outcomes in order to guide future developments of the model.
Observational component: observations for boundary layer and convective cloud turbulence

Supporting the science themes, we are inviting applications for a separate observational component, which will inform the understanding of the turbulent representation of boundary layer and convective physics. There is a need to understand the detailed structure and dynamics of convective updrafts and downdrafts, as well as understanding the role of turbulence, in conjunction with other processes, in determining the structure of convective clouds and storms.

The Met Office is committed to carrying out the Wessex Convection Experiment (WesCon) field campaign in summer 2023 involving the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements aircraft, ground-based observations and radar facilities. More details can be found on the Met Office WesCon website.

The project funded in the observational component is expected to expand this campaign to support the science of the themes (A, B and C).

Additional observations undertaken in the observational component may include aircraft and lidar measurements of updrafts and turbulence as well as complementary radar measurements. Measurements of other quantities related to processes of relevance to the rest of the programme (for example, pre-convective environment profiles, microphysics, boundary layer structures and particularly their interactions with turbulent processes) are also in scope.

When applying to this component, you need to make the case for why your proposed observations are complementary, but also avoid duplication to the Met Office-led WesCon observational campaign. We recommend that you email the Met Office using the email address in the ‘contact’ section to discuss the scope of the WesCon campaign before applying.

Met Office collaboration

Met Office contribution and collaboration will be made on the programme level with funded projects, once awarded. You should not seek project partnership or sub-contracts with the Met Office as this is ineligible for this programme.

However, if you wish to discuss the scope of your project with the Met Office before applying, you may do so using the email address in the ‘contact details’ section.

Programme requirements

In all themes, the proposed work must include a component that is focused on the translation of scientific understanding into practical formulations that could be implemented in climate and numerical weather prediction (NWP) models (for example, findings that are quantitative and testable).

The programme will have three cross-cutting activities, and projects should clearly demonstrate how they contribute to at least one of these:

  • theory and parametrisation development: advancing the underpinning theory, modelling frameworks and numerics required to improve models at km and sub-km scales
  • use of observations or process modelling: providing evidence to inform or direct parametrisation developments
  • evaluation: to test and refine new developments in models, comparing with observations, and including ensemble performance.

The funders will look to ensure a balanced suite of complementary projects to cover the scope and objectives of the programme. However, they will place priority on projects that stand to contribute towards better model performance.

If your project is selected to receive funding, you will be invited to attend an integration workshop in order to produce a joint integration plan. Further details are found in the ‘additional info’ section.

Funding and duration

We anticipate supporting five projects across the programme:

  • four projects, each covering at least one of the science themes. The full economic cost of each project can be up to £1.125 million
  • one ‘observational component’ project. The full economic cost can be up to £1.875 million.

We will fund 80% of the full economic cost of each project.

The total budget for this funding opportunity is £5.1 million.

An extra £400,000 funding will be available for programme integration to successful projects. Further details are in the ‘additional info’ section.

Projects must start no later than 10 February 2023 and last no longer than 48 months.

Sub-contracts

Sub-contracts are eligible for costs on proposals submitted to this funding opportunity but should only be used for the procurement of goods and services. Sub-contracts are not permitted for research partners providing intellectual input into the project, where a research partner or project partner relationship is more appropriate.

You should not seek project partners or sub-contracts with the Met Office.

NERC facilities

If you wish to use NERC services and facilities, you will need to contact the relevant facility at least two months prior to the closing date of this opportunity to discuss the proposed work and receive confirmation that you can provide the services required within the timeframe of the grant.

The facility will then provide a technical assessment that includes the calculated cost of providing the service. NERC services and facilities must be costed within the limits of the proposal.

The technical assessment must be submitted as part of the Je-S form, as detailed in the ‘additional info’ section and within the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

The full list of NERC facilities that require a technical assessment can be found in our guidance on how to find a NERC facility or resource.

High performance computing, ship-time or marine equipment, and the large research facilities at Harwell have their own policies for access and costing. For information, contact Harwell Campus.

Data management

The NERC data policy must be adhered to, and a full data management plan will be developed by successful applicants with the appropriate environmental data centre.

NERC will pay the data centre directly on behalf of the programme for archival and curation services, but you should ensure you request sufficient resource to cover the preparation of data for archiving by the research team.

How to apply

You need to make it clear in your application which theme your application is addressing or if it delivers to the observation component.

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

You can find advice on completing your application in the:

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’ .
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: turbulent processes of the atmosphere.

This will populate:

  • council: NERC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: directed
  • call/type/mode: turbulent processes of the atmosphere.

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

Deadline

NERC must receive your application by 19 October 2022 at 16:00.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Any proposal that is incomplete or does not meet NERC’s eligibility criteria or follow NERC’s submission rules in the NERC research grant and fellowship handbook will be office rejected and will not be considered.

Attachments

In addition to the Je-S application, you must include the following mandatory documents:

  • case for support
  • justification of resources
  • facility form (if applicable)
  • technical assessment (if applicable)
  • equipment quotes (if applicable).

You may also wish to include a proposal cover letter. This is optional and only relevant in specific circumstances.

Case for support

This should include information about:

  • your capability to deliver the project (up to two sides of A4)
  • description of the research project (up to five sides of A4).

Justification of resources

This should be a narrative description of why you require the resources requested (up to two sides of A4).

Costs must be included for all project and programme-wide meetings, including the integration workshop in spring 2023.

Facility form

This should only be completed for applications for:

  • ship-time or marine equipment
  • autonomous deployment
  • Antarctic logistics support
  • high performance computing when the use of ARCHER2 exceeds 500 kCU (in any one year) for the whole project.

Technical assessment

This is mandatory for any NERC facility selected on the Je-S proforma except those listed above as needing a ‘facility form’. The full list of NERC facilities that require a technical assessment can be found in our guidance on how to find a NERC facility or resource.

This attachment should be a quote from the relevant facility. It is for internal NERC use and will not go out to peer review or panels.

Equipment quotes

Additional justification and supporting documentation are required for items over £10,000.

Find out more about equipment costs on page 33 of the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

Individual items of equipment below £10,000 (including VAT) should be included in ‘other directly incurred costs’ within your Je-S application.

Proposal cover letter

This attachment is optional. It does not go out to reviewers. It should only be used to flag up a significant issue to the NERC Office (for example, a request not to use a certain reviewer). This attachment should be used to declare any relevant interests.

What you must not submit

You should not include:

  • CVs
  • outline data management plan. Successful grant holders will have to work alongside the appropriate environmental data centre to develop a full outline data management plan
  • project partner letters of support
  • other letters of support.

Document requirements

With the exception of services, facilities and equipment quotes, all attachments should be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or similar-sized sans serif typeface, with margins of at least 2cm. Arial Narrow, Calibri and Times New Roman are not accepted font types and any proposal including these font types will be rejected. References and footnotes should also be at least 11-point font and should be in the same font type as the rest of the document.

Headers and footers should not be used for references or information relating to the scientific case.

Where you refer to websites, you should note that referees may choose not to use them.

You should attach your documents as PDFs to avoid errors.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

The assessment method is to be confirmed. All proposals received that meet the eligibility criteria will either be assessed by an:

  • independent panel of experts during an interview panel
  • assessment panel.

The exact process will be confirmed as soon as possible following the application closing date.

Panels are expected to take place in early December 2022 (date to be confirmed).

The funders will use the recommendations of the panel along with the overall funding opportunity requirements and the available budget in making the final funding decisions.

We will look to ensure funding of a balanced suite of complementary projects to cover the scope and objectives of the programme. However, there is priority to ensure projects will stand to contribute towards the desired outcomes and driver of the programme, namely in better model performance. The funders reserve the right not to fund projects covering every theme. This is to ensure funded projects will adequately improve model performance.

It is expected that you will be notified of the funding outcome within two weeks of the panel meeting, anticipated to take place in December 2022.

Assessment criteria

The assessment criteria to be used will be as follows:

  • research excellence:
    • the originality and quality of the proposed research
    • the importance of the questions being addressed
    • the capability of the team to deliver
    • consideration for the diversity, equity and inclusion in membership of the team and work plan
  • fit to scheme: the degree to which proposals fit the required scope of each topic to which they apply as well as the wider objectives of the ‘improving model representation of  turbulent atmospheric processes ’ funding opportunity.

Feedback

You will be given feedback from the panel summarising the reasons why the proposal was successful or unsuccessful. No further feedback will be available.

COVID-19

UK Research and Innovation recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities.

We are committed to ensuring that individuals and your wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their careers that may have been caused by the pandemic, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes.

Panel members will be advised to consider the impact that COVID-19 might have had on the track record and career development of those individuals included in the proposal and will be asked to consider your capability and that of the wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, you can highlight this within your application, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

NERC team

Email: turbulentprocesses@nerc.ukri.org

Met Office

Email: turbulentprocesses@metoffice.gov.uk

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email:

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone:

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Background

Weather and climate models are critical to society’s ability to reduce the impacts of hazardous weather, helping to inform decisions on adapting to climate change, and provide advance warning of high-impact weather.

The need for accurate weather and climate forecasts and projections is only going to increase, especially at the fine scale that decisions are required. The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2022 report highlights the impacts of disruptive change caused by increasing frequency of extreme weather events on multiple sectors, for example, on:

  • terrestrial or freshwater habitats
  • supply of food, goods and services
  • health and social care
  • infrastructure.

There is a pressing need to better predict these.

Methods for modelling turbulence in the ‘grey zone’ are still in their infancy, with key problems being the lack of model convergence at different resolutions, and the unrealistic emergence of structures (aliasing) onto the grid scale, leading to systematic biases in projections (for example, excessive rainfall at the wrong time). A faithful representation of its effects is vital for ensuring the accuracy of predictions of severe weather such as intense rainfall, heat extremes and damaging winds.

Operationally, the Met Office uses a 1D first-order turbulence closure for vertical mixing in coarser resolution models (less than 10 kilometre grids), coupled to a mass-flux convection scheme. At higher resolutions, the mass-flux scheme is switched off, and a 3D Smagorinsky turbulence scheme (including the Leonard terms) is blended with that 1D scheme, based on the relative size of the model grid to an estimated turbulence length scale.

While this blended scheme has reasonable features, it is isotropic, and the diagnosis of the turbulence length scale is very simple, and essentially unknown out of well-defined turbulent layers (especially above the boundary layer).

In addition, simple stochastic perturbations to temperature and moisture can be applied in the boundary layer, motivated by the transfer of energy from sub-grid to resolved scales, which have been found to improve the timing of the initiation of convection over the UK.

In the tropics, however, these lead to too early initiation and so are not used there, highlighting the need for more physically based alternatives. Finally, the Unified Model includes various options for higher order turbulence closures, from prognostic turbulence kinetic energy to ones including heat and moisture variances and covariances.

Programme management

The funders (NERC and Met Office) will establish a programme board alongside international experts to advise programme direction. The programme board will have oversight for delivery and strategic direction of the research programme.

Project leads will form a principal investigator group with the Met Office experts, led by the Met Office Science Lead. This group is expected to meet regularly to review progress, responding to opportunities and issues as they arise during the lifetime of the programme. The unifying focus and responsibility for this group will be to pull through insights and research breakthroughs into the Met Office model in a coordinated way and demonstrate their performance so that these can be reported, both internally within the Met Office, and to NERC via the programme board.

Integration workshop

Applicants whose projects receive funding through this opportunity will be invited to an integration workshop in spring 2023, where project groups will be required to come together under a coherent programme structure designed to address the stated goals of the programme. This will identify:

  • areas of common interest
  • possible gaps
  • cross-project integration, knowledge exchange, synthesis and governance, considering also communications, and data management.

The outcomes will be summarised in an integration plan submitted to the programme board within six months of projects starting.

Costs (travel and subsistence) for attendance to the workshop must be included in your application. It is expected that a maximum of three attendees from each project will attend.

NERC will fund an additional £400,000 across the programme to the successful projects following this integration workshop and integration plan, to enable the projects to deliver the integrated programme.

Reporting requirements

If you are successful, you will be required to report research outcomes on Researchfish in line with standard UK Research and Innovation terms and conditions for funding. This is required annually and continues for up to five years post grant end.

For strategic research investments, NERC additionally requires biannual progress reports.

NERC may require additional information for monitoring and evaluation purposes during the programme lifetime and, according to standard grant terms and conditions, projects will be required to comply with any additional requests.

Knowledge exchange and impact

Knowledge exchange is vital to ensure that environmental research has wide benefits for society and should be an integral part of any research.

Public engagement is a key part of knowledge exchange, and a route to increasing the impact of research.

A separate ‘pathways to impact’ statement is not required, but applicants should still consider how they will or might achieve impact outside the scientific community and include this as part of their case for support.

Impact activities do not have to be cost-incurring, but relevant costs can be included and must be fully justified within the justification of resources statement.

All funded projects may also be required to engage with programme-wide knowledge exchange activities.

Responsible business

Through our funding processes, we seek to make a positive contribution to society and the environment, not just through research outputs and outcomes, but through the way in which research is conducted and facilities managed.

All NERC grant holders are to adopt responsible research practices as set-out in the NERC responsible business statement.

Responsible research is defined as reducing harm or enhancing benefit on the environment and society through effective management of research activities and facilities.

Specifically, this covers:

  • the natural environment
  • the local community
  • diversity, equity and inclusion.

Grant holders should consider the responsible research context of their project, not the host institution as a whole, and take action to enhance their responsible research approach where practical and reasonable.

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
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