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.
- 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.
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
- 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.
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 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.
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.
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.