DYNamics and predictability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning and Climate (DYNAMOC)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Meteorology

Abstract

The 'Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation', or AMOC, describes a large scale circulation of the North Atlantic Ocean which carries warm surface waters northward and cooler deeper waters southwards. This circulation carries huge amounts of heat, and variations in its strength can have a substantial influence on European climate. The DYNAMOC project aims to improve understanding of how this circulation has varied in the past and how it has affected climate, and also to assess the potential for useful predictions months to years ahead.

DYNAMOC will make use of new advanced computer simulations and forecasting systems which are able to simulate the AMOC in unprecedented detail. It will also make use of the RAPID observations of the AMOC strength at 26 degrees North, available since 2004, as a benchmark for testing the models and predictions. The research will test some specific hypotheses about how the AMOC works, how it is changing now. It will investigate how a slow down or speed up in the AMOC affects summers and winters in the UK and other countries. DYNAMOC will provide an assessment of the likely behaviour of the AMOC, and its impacts on climate, over the next decade. It will also produce recommendations for improving forecasting systems in the future.

DYNAMOC is a collaboration between the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading, the National Oceanography Centre and the UK Met Office.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries of DYNAMOC will include:

1. Government Departments: (e.g. DECC, Defra and DFID, cabinet office) who are customers for Met Office seasonal-to-decadal forecasts and will benefit from improved forecasts. Furthermore, because the AMOC is one of the major mechanisms via which abrupt climate change may take place over the N Atlantic it is of extreme relevance to UK policymakers. DYNAMOC will provide new insights into the likelihood of a significant slowdown in the AMOC in the near term, and the likely impacts on the climate of Europe and other regions.

2. Businesses: seasonal forecasts are of increasing interest to businesses affected by weather and climate risks. The energy industry in particular requires information about future weather to manage supply and demand. Businesses will benefit from improved forecasts and specific advice concerning potential future changes in the AMOC and the likely consequences for businesses.

3. Met Office (MO): DYNAMOC outcomes will benefit the Met Office by i) Improving understanding of the role of the AMOC in climate variability and predictability and the representation of the relevant processes in the Met Office's models; ii) Assessing MO seasonal-to-decadal predictions and identifying opportunities for improvement; iii) Assessing the impact of the RAPID array observations on predictions.

4. International Customers: will benefit from the improved quality of the Met Office contribution to the coordinated international dissemination of seasonal forecasts (www.wmolc.org)

5. NERC: DYNAMOC outcomes will affect NERC's strategy through the project's input into the international review of the RAPID array in 2018.

6. General Public: Climate variability, such as droughts and flooding are of interest to the general public, but the AMOC's role in climate variability is still uncertain. DYNAMOC will engage the public on the AMOC's role in regional variability that affects the UK.

7. Trained Staff: DYNAMOC will train scientists in climate research and to engage with the public.

Publications

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Menary M (2018) Preindustrial Control Simulations With HadGEM3-GC3.1 for CMIP6 in Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems

 
Description A major problem with our current understanding of the North Atlantic is that sustained and quality observations of the North Atlantic ocean circulation have only existed for the past 15 years. Even now, we have little idea of how the ocean circulation has changed over the whole Atlantic basin. Therefore, a major focus in DYNAMOC has been on understanding the processes governing changes in the North Atlantic in the recent past. Work within DYNAMOC was the first to show that a large area of the North Atlantic had undergone a decadal timescale cooling following 2005. Furthermore, through the development of indirect observations of the ocean circulation, DYNAMOC provided convincing evidence that the ocean circulation had played a key role in shaping the evolution of the North Atlantic over the past few decades.

DYNAMOC also explored variability on shorter timescales, and showed that there is a relationship between the Atlantic Overturning Circulation and sea surface temperatures on seasonal and interannual timescales. If robust, this impact on shorter timescales could provide important information for improving predictions. However, using observations and models, we also found that the relationships can change significantly when being computed over different time periods. Ultimately, more than 30 years of the Atlantic Overturning Circulation may be needed to understand the robustness of the relationships.

Another major focus for DYNAMOC was on understanding the prospects for providing improved predictions of the decade-to-decade variability in the North Atlantic and the wider region. Work within DYNAMOC built on previous work to show that the North Atlantic subpolar gyre region is one of the most, if not the most, predictable places on Earth at decadal timescales. Furthermore, the improvement is due to the initialisation of the slow ocean circulation and the subsequent impact on ocean heat transports, particularly in the eastern subpolar North Atlantic.

Finally, a key result that emerged from DYNAMOC has been on the sensitivity of the simulation of the North Atlantic variability to whether salinity or temperature dominates anomalies of density and subsequent slow changes in the ocean circulation of the North Atlantic. Low resolution models tend to be too cold and too fresh, and subsequently are affected by changes in the subarctic. However, higher resolution models tended to be too warm and too saline, and the variability was subsequently related to changes further south. Finally, it was shown that simulating the wrong drivers of density can adversely affect the skill of predictions in the North Atlantic. Therefore, it is likely that models with the correct density drivers could offer improved predictions.
Exploitation Route Results from DYNAMOC that showed that the North Atlantic is highly predictable on decadal time scales have been used to motivate and support important international initiatives in decadal prediction led by the UK Met Office, who was a project partner in DYNAMOC. Initially the Met Office organised an informal exchange of real time decadal predictions, with a focus on the North Atlantic. Work within DYNAMOC helped motivate the inclusion of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation into the basket of variables that was shared. More recently, near-term prediction has become a 'Grand Challenge' of the World Climate Research Program. Therefore, this activity has become more formal, and the Met Office is the WMO lead centre for Annual-to-Decadal Climate Prediction - (see https://hadleyserver.metoffice.gov.uk/wmolc/)
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Construction,Energy,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Retail,Transport

 
Description Results from DYNAMOC that showed that the North Atlantic is highly predictable on decadal time scales have been used to motivate and support important international initiatives in decadal prediction led by the UK Met Office, who was a project partner in DYNAMOC. Initially the Met Office organised an informal exchange of real time decadal predictions, with a focus on the North Atlantic. Work within DYNAMOC helped motivate the inclusion of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation into the basket of variables that was shared. More recently, near-term prediction has become a 'Grand Challenge' of the World Climate Research Program. Therefore, this activity has become more formal, and the Met Office is the WMO lead centre for Annual-to-Decadal Climate Prediction - (see https://hadleyserver.metoffice.gov.uk/wmolc/)
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Invited participant in the scoping meeting to plan the sixth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (May 2017, Addis Ababa)
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has played a critical role in advising the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the most recent outcome of which was the Paris Agreement which is the most serious attempt yet achieved to tackle climate change.
URL http://www.ipcc.ch
 
Description Global Dynamics of climate Variability and impacts on East Asia
Amount £500,000 (GBP)
Organisation Newton Fund 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2015 
End 02/2019
 
Description NERC National Capability Long Term Science - MultiCentre Programme: North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study (ACSIS)
Amount £9,000,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/N018001/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2016 
End 03/2021
 
Description NERC National Capability Science Multi-Centre 1-year extension (FY 21/22): The North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study (ACSIS)
Amount £1,961,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2021 
End 03/2022
 
Description NERC industrial CASE studentship
Amount £89,114 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 09/2022
 
Description SNAP-DRAGON: Subpolar North Atlantic Processes - Dynamics and pRedictability of vAriability in Gyre and OverturNing
Amount £1,600,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/T013494/1 
Organisation United Kingdom Research and Innovation 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2020 
End 08/2023
 
Description Wider impacts of Subpolar North Atlantic decadal variability on the ocean and atmosphere (WISHBONE)
Amount £800,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/T013516/1 
Organisation United Kingdom Research and Innovation 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2020 
End 08/2023
 
Description North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study (ACSIS programme) 
Organisation British Antarctic Survey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study (ACSIS programme) is a 5 year research programme led by NCAS (PI Rowan Sutton) and also involving: NOC, BAS, NCEO, PML, CPOM and the Met Office.
Collaborator Contribution Details at www.acsis.ac.uk and https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0266.1
Impact https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0266.1
Start Year 2016
 
Description North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study (ACSIS programme) 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study (ACSIS programme) is a 5 year research programme led by NCAS (PI Rowan Sutton) and also involving: NOC, BAS, NCEO, PML, CPOM and the Met Office.
Collaborator Contribution Details at www.acsis.ac.uk and https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0266.1
Impact https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0266.1
Start Year 2016
 
Description North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study (ACSIS programme) 
Organisation National Centre for Earth Observation
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study (ACSIS programme) is a 5 year research programme led by NCAS (PI Rowan Sutton) and also involving: NOC, BAS, NCEO, PML, CPOM and the Met Office.
Collaborator Contribution Details at www.acsis.ac.uk and https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0266.1
Impact https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0266.1
Start Year 2016
 
Description North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study (ACSIS programme) 
Organisation National Oceanography Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study (ACSIS programme) is a 5 year research programme led by NCAS (PI Rowan Sutton) and also involving: NOC, BAS, NCEO, PML, CPOM and the Met Office.
Collaborator Contribution Details at www.acsis.ac.uk and https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0266.1
Impact https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0266.1
Start Year 2016
 
Description North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study (ACSIS programme) 
Organisation Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study (ACSIS programme) is a 5 year research programme led by NCAS (PI Rowan Sutton) and also involving: NOC, BAS, NCEO, PML, CPOM and the Met Office.
Collaborator Contribution Details at www.acsis.ac.uk and https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0266.1
Impact https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0266.1
Start Year 2016
 
Description Partnership with the Met Office Hadley Centre 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Strategic partnership in high resolution climate modelling, decadal climate prediction and other areas
Collaborator Contribution Strategic partnership in high resolution climate modelling, decadal climate prediction and other areas
Impact Publications. Improvements to Met Office decadal prediction system. Collaboration with the insurance businesses on climate risk assessment.
 
Description Public lecture on rapid climate change in the North Atlantic for IoP regional centre by Jon Robson 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact I gave a lecutre on the scientific background of rapid climate change in the North Atlantic, climate modelling, and recent observed changes. The purpose of the talk was to inform and excite the genral public, and to generate interest in climate science from physics undergraduates.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description • Co-organizer (with UK Climate Change Committee and UK Climate Resilience Programme champions) of the major multi-disciplinary conference "Is the UK on track to adapt to climate change?", October 2020 (see https://www.ukclimaterisk.org/learn-more/conference-is-the-uk-on-track-to-adapt-to-climate-change/) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This was a major online conference with excellent participation (approx 500 registered) from science and policy communities interested in adaptation and resilience. See https://www.ukclimaterisk.org/learn-more/conference-is-the-uk-on-track-to-adapt-to-climate-change/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.ukclimaterisk.org/learn-more/conference-is-the-uk-on-track-to-adapt-to-climate-change/