Summer: Testing Influences and Mechanisms for Europe (SummerTIME)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics


The recent string of wet UK summers had considerable impact on society via effects such as flooding. The summer of 2013 then bucked the trend, with unusually warm and dry conditions prevailing. The proximate causes of these unusual seasons were shifts of the Atlantic jet and storm track, which steers the path of individual storms. But are there deeper underlying causes: remote or 'external' drivers that can have an influence on the jet stream? If so, can we use these drivers to improve our forecasts of these high-impact events from months to years ahead? These are the questions that will be addressed by the SummerTIME proposal.

Summertime shifts of the jet stream appear to be related to Atlantic Ocean temperatures, both on seasonal and decadal timescales. Other potential drivers include sea ice variations, anthropogenic aerosol emissions and tropical circulation patterns. However, climate models in general have difficulty in reproducing these observed relationships, and operational seasonal forecast systems have little skill in predicting jet shifts. The primary aim of SummerTIME is to advance the science of seasonal to decadal prediction of summertime atmospheric circulation over the North Atlantic-European region.

The meteorology of summertime circulation has historically been much less studied than its wintertime counterpart, and much remains to be understood of its fundamental nature. A secondary aim of SummerTIME is to improve our understanding of the fundamentals of summer circulation, for example why the storm track splits into two distinct paths just west of the British Isles. This will be investigated using the latest observational datasets and a hierarchy of numerical models of different complexities.

A series of sensitivity experiments will be performed centred around a new version of the Met Office climate model coupled to a very detailed model of the ocean surface layer. These experiments will be designed to test the roles of possible drivers such as ocean currents, sea ice and aerosol forcing.

Finally, the project will analyse a wide range of state of the art forecast systems, particularly from the Met Office but also from other forecasting centres around the world. The aim is to identify missing or poorly represented processes in the forecast systems and investigate how these may be improved. The SummerTIME team will work closely with scientists from the Met Office and the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasting, to ensure that the results are successfully pulled through to aid the development of operational forecast systems.

Planned Impact

The key beneficiaries of SummerTIME are the UK Met Office and the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). They will benefit directly from recommendations given by SummerTIME on how to improve their seasonal prediction systems for European summer. By working with both of their operational and development systems we will be able to provide tailored advice for each system.

Direct interaction with, and pull-through by, these key end-users is guaranteed through the depth of collaboration including: 1) project input from jointly-employed staff; 2) the letters of support from parallel projects funded, inter alia, under the EC's 7th framework programme; 3) sub-contracting components of the proposed programme directly from end-users; 4) regularly scheduled collaborative meetings and 5) support from the Met Office Academic Partnership. All these strands will ensure direct operational impact of results by permitting end users to shape the research during the lifetime of the project.

Improved predictive skill for summer climate will have subsequent economic impacts for both government and businesses, who will be better able to prepare for extreme weather and climate conditions. The project team have particularly strong links with the insurance industry, through the Willis and Lighthill networks, which will be invaluable in engaging end-users. In addition, our involvement in the NERC Probability, Uncertainty and Risk in the Environment (PURE) knowledge exchange network will aid in the communication of the important uncertainties surrounding seasonal prediction.

Finally we are keen to expand our existing engagement with wider interest groups such as policy makers, environmental charities, pressure groups, NGOs, student-bodies, and the wider public. This will be achieved through a variety of mechanisms including popular science articles, web content and schools outreach, orchestrated through the Oxford Climate Research Network and the Walker Institute at Reading.


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Weisheimer A (2019) How confident are predictability estimates of the winter North Atlantic Oscillation? in Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society

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Ossó A (2018) Observational evidence of European summer weather patterns predictable from spring. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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O'Reilly C (2016) The Gulf Stream influence on wintertime North Atlantic jet variability in Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society

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O'Reilly C (2018) The Signature of Oceanic Processes in Decadal Extratropical SST Anomalies in Geophysical Research Letters

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Dunstone N (2018) Skilful Seasonal Predictions of Summer European Rainfall in Geophysical Research Letters

Description Seasonal forecasts for European winter now show reasonable levels of skill, but summer forecasts remain a challenge. We have identified a new pathway by which El Nino events can affect the Atlantic/European region in summer. We have also identified problems with one seasonal forecasting system which prevent it from capturing this signal.

Furthermore, we have determined that the relationship between El Nino and the European region in summer is non-stationary, in that the link is only evident in the most recent few decades. We performed model simulations to investigate this, and these suggest that the warming trend of the tropical oceans is responsible for this changing link. This provides a new example of how climate change can affect patterns of climate variability, in particular the pattern which contributed to the extreme Russian heatwave of 2010.
Exploitation Route We are continuing this work with the Met Office to see how this mechanism can be improved in their seasonal forecasting system.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

Description Our work has supported the Met Office in developing their summer seasonal forecasts. Working together with Met Office scientists we have shown that there is useful skill in their system for predicting European summer rainfall from May. Understanding the physical mechanisms giving the skill is important so they know whether this is a forecast signal that can be trusted.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Met Office Process Evaluation Group
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Description Met Office summer seasonal forecasting 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Our team contributed to analysis of forecast skill in the Met Office system and also identified new potential sources of skill to be exploited.
Collaborator Contribution The Met Office partner contributed forecast data and analysis in joint research on this problem.
Impact This collaboration led to peer reviewed publications and contributed to the development of Met Office forecast systems.
Start Year 2018