Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Meteorology


North west Europe has a relatively mild climate in part because of heat pulled north through the Atlantic by the overturning. There is a risk that global warming will cause this circulation to rapidly decrease with consequences involving not only colder winters for Europe but also changes in sea level and precipitation. This project will carry out a risk assessment of rapid changes of the Atlantic overturning. We will use two models of the climate system, HADCM3, the Hadley Centre model used in the IPCC AR4, and CHIME, a global climate model developed at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. This has the same atmospheric model as HADCM3 but has a very different structure to the ocean component. Making use of the resources of climateprediction.net we will run a large ensemble of both models to assess the uncertainties in the system. We will then use modern Bayesian statistical techniques to combine model output, data and expert opinion in our risk assessment. The utility of the data from the RAPID-WATCH arrays is an important aim of the project.
Description This project is investigating the impacts of changes in ocean circulation in the North Atlantic on regional climate. One focus has been on examining natural rapid changes in the ocean which occur in climate models, to see if different models agree on the impact of these events on climate. The general result is that these events do have a detectable influence on climate, but there is still disagreement between models which limits the predictability of these impacts in the real world.

Another piece of work has further highlighted the importance of changes in this ocean circulation in response to climate change. Small scale polar storms are projected to become less common in the future, and our work shows that this change is driven by the changes in the ocean circulation in climate models.
Exploitation Route There is further potential for these results to inform the planning and adaptation communities, particularly with regard to coastal planning and shipping (re polar storms). Work from this project has contributed to DECC/DEFRA assessments of the importance of ocean circulation and its monitoring.
Sectors Environment

Description RAPID-WATCH programme reviews
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Description Collaboration between climate scientists and statisticians 
Organisation Durham University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provided input for the paper led by WP3 (Williamson et al 2013) on history matching for exploring and reducing climate model parameter space.
Start Year 2012
Description Fluids lab for school children 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Dr Allison ran a fluids lab activity for visiting groups of 14-16 year-old school pupils. This involved practical experiments to introduce the students to density currents and rotating convection, and discussing real-world examples in the atmosphere and ocean. The contribution was made to this annual event over three successive years.

Positive feedback from the schools such that the programme was repeated in following years.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2011,2012
Description Online discussions 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This project involved members of the public running climate model simulations on their computers in the climate prediction.net project. Members of the team contributed to online discussions with members of the public to inform them of the science underlying the experiments.

This engagement activity motivated members of the public to participate in the climate prediction.net online climate experiments.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2011,2012
Description Science highlights on NCAS website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Dr Allison developed a template for NCAS science highlights for a public audience. She wrote one of these highlights about her work on climate model experiments investigating the potential for large, irreversible changes in ocean circulation. These are available on the public engagement part of the NCAS website. She also helped to develop the content for the climate aspects of the NCAS public engagement web pages.

Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012