The UK Earth system modelling project

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: National Centre for Earth Observation

Abstract

Global climate change is one of the leading environmental threats facing mankind. To develop appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies requires accurate projections of the future state of the Earth's climate. To address this, the research community have developed Global Climate Models (GCMs) that describe the main physical processes in the coupled climate system. These mathematical-computer models are integrated forwards in simulated time, from a pre-industrial period (before ~1850) to present-day, forced by observed estimates of key greenhouse gases (e.g. carbon dioxide, methane, ozone), aerosols and land-use. The models are then continued into the simulated future forced by a range of greenhouse gas, aerosol and land-use scenarios representing plausible future socio-economic development pathways. Each of the time-evolving model future climates are then compared to the pre-industrial and present-day climates from the same model. This analysis results in an ensemble of climate change estimates, linked to each of the applied development pathways, that can be used to assess potential socio-economic and ecological impacts and aid in the development of climate change mitigation and adaptation policies. GCMs have recently been further developed into Earth system models (ESMs). A key difference between ESMs and GCMs is the former include an interactive description of the global carbon cycle. Climate change is primarily driven by human emissions of carbon dioxide which traps a fraction of the Earth's emitted radiation in the atmosphere, warming it and the Earth's surface. This direct warming from increasing carbon dioxide can be amplified or damped by various feedbacks in the climate system (e.g. involving water vapour, clouds or sea-ice). A key determinant of the climate change impact of human-emitted carbon dioxide is how much of the emitted gas actually stays in the atmosphere where it can interact with the Earth's emitted radiation. Presently, around 50% of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans stays in the atmosphere, the remaining 50% being taken up, in roughly equal measures, by the terrestrial biosphere and the world oceans. There is increasing evidence to suggest the efficiency of these natural carbon reservoirs in absorbing human-emitted carbon dioxide may change in the future, being sensitive to both the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth system and to the induced climate change. A reduction in the uptake efficiency of Earth's natural carbon reservoirs would result in a larger fraction of emitted carbon dioxide remaining in the atmosphere and thereby a larger climate change (warming) for a given cumulative emission of carbon dioxide. To address the need to simulate both the changing global climate and the carbon cycle response to a changing climate and changing atmospheric composition, we are developing the 1st UK Earth system model, based on the core physical GCM, HadGEM3, developed at the Met Office. This development is a major collaboration between NERC centres and the Met Office, integrating a large body of core research and development into a single, world-leading ESM. This proposal aims to secure the NERC funding to maintain this collaboration. The project will support the final development and community release of the 1st UKESM models, as well as application of these models to a range of collaborative science experiments carried out at the international level to support the IPCC AR6. The project has a major emphasis on evaluating the full range of climate and biogeochemical processes and interactions simulated by UKESM1 models with an aim to increase confidence in future projections made with the models. The project will also generate and analyse a suite of such projections and deliver a set of robust estimates of Earth system change to UK government, business and the public. Finally, the project will initiate long-term development of a 2nd version of the UKESM model, for release ~2023.

Publications

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Buchwitz M (2017) Satellite-derived methane hotspot emission estimates using a fast data-driven method in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics

 
Description The UK has released its next generation UK Earth System Model: UKESM. This is a state of the art model of the Earth system for predicting the course of climate change due to greenhouse gas warming. It is particularly interesting for investigations of carbon feedbacks in the system. Results from the model are being fed into the Climate-Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) and will be presented in the IPCC 6th Assessment Report.
Exploitation Route The model will be used by a range of scientists to test hypotheses on climate models.

Results of UKESM runs will be used to guide statements on likely climate trajectories and hence influence the inter-governmental negotiations through the annual COP meeting associated with international climate agreements.
Sectors Environment

URL https://ukesm.ac.uk/
 
Description Contributing Author to Chapter 4 in the IPCC AR6, WG1 report.
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact IPCC Reports are influential in informing public attitudes towards climate change and influencing decisions with governments.
URL https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_Chapter_04.pdf
 
Description Earth System Model eVALuation (ESMVal) Tool Tutorials
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Training provided in the use of ESMValTool to scientists and researchers has led to the development of novel diagnostics and analyses including in the IPCC AR6 report.
URL https://github.com/ESMValGroup/ESMValTool
 
Description Research Experience Placement (REP): Summer placement funding for an undergraduate student to use TROPOMI NO2 data to derive UK NOx emissions
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Leeds 
Department School of Earth and Environment
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2019 
End 07/2019
 
Title UKESM1 CMIP6 simulation data 
Description UKESM1 simulations constitute the main contribution from the UK to the World Climate Research Program sponsored 6th Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6). All UKESM1 CMIP6 data is being made openly available to international researchers at the UK Earth System Grid Federation (ESGF) node at the Centre for Environmental Data Analysis (CEDA), see: https://esgf-index1.ceda.ac.uk/search/cmip6-ceda/ 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact CMIP6 data forms one of the main internation climate modelling supports for the 6th Assessment Report of the IPCC. 
URL https://esgf-index1.ceda.ac.uk/search/cmip6-ceda
 
Description UKESM project 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution NERC members of this project work closely with Met Office colleagues on a daily basis on all aspects of UKESM development and application.
Collaborator Contribution The Met Office contribute eight FTE into the UKESM project. These staff are managed by myself and contribute to the development, application and analysis of UKESM models.
Impact Numerous papers listed in the publications section are joint papers. Developement and release of the UKESM1 model would not have been possible without this collaboration.
Start Year 2013
 
Title Dry spell relative warming rate diagnostics 
Description This is a Python package for calculating the dry spell relative warming rate (RWR) diagnostic from either satellite and reanalysis products or climate model outputs. The RWR is a method for diagnosing the effect of soil moisture limitation on the land surface energy budget. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2019 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact This code was used in a series of publications already attributed to this award (i.e., Gallego-Elvira et al, 2019; Gallego-Elvira et al, 2016) and is being used in ongoing analysis of UKESM1, HadGEM3 and other CMIP6 models. 
URL https://github.com/ppharris/dry_spell_rwr
 
Title ESMValTool Tutorial 
Description ESMValTool 2.0 Tutorial. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2020 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact This tutorial enables standardized training for ESMValTool which is a widely used software for climate model evaluation. 
URL https://zenodo.org/record/3974592
 
Description 2017 Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presented UK Earth System Modelling at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. This was a week long event with thousands of visitors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/2017/summer-science-exhibition/exhibits/a-model...
 
Description Blue Dot Music and Science Festival 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact UKESM participated in the 2019 Blue Dot Music and Science Festival, held at Jodrell Bank Observatory, July 18 to 21 2019. (https://www.discoverthebluedot.com/home).

The festival attracted tens of thousands of visitors and our stand, entitled 'UKESM: A Model Earth' consisted of a brilliant display, with puzzles, an interactive quiz and climate oriented games suitable for children and families. In addition, the primary attraction at the stand was the interactive Pufferfish globe, on which we displayed six videos illustrating different aspects of the coupled Earth system and future Earth system change. Among the videos shown, visitors had the opportunity to explore latest simulation results from the 1st version of the UK Earth system model (UKESM1), released to UK researchers last February 2019 (for more information visit https://ukesm.ac.uk/project-outcomes/model-releases/).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.discoverthebluedot.com/profile/ukesm:-a-model-earth
 
Description Contributed material to NCEO/UKESM stands at COP26 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I generated material (images, videos, slides) that we used on the UKESM and NCEO/UKRI stands at COP26
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description I'm a Scientist Get me out of here 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The "I'm a Scientist Get me out of here" program is an online, student led STEM enrichment activity. Scientists sign up for a one month period with any of the "zones" available that are categorised under different sciences or engineering. In that one month, scientists participate in as many 40 minute chat sessions as possible with groups of secondary school students from around the country. I participated in the Yello Zone which was a General Science Zone. I was asked questions related to climate modeling, earth observations, computer science, interdisciplinary research as well as career path related questions. The program serves as a STEM activity as well as a mentoring activity where students understand better how to pursue science and possibly research careers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
URL https://yellow20.imascientist.org.uk/
 
Description Interviewed for UKRI COP26 short film 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was interviewed related to climate modelling as part of the UKRI film produced for COP26
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Public lecture at Space Park Leicester for COP26 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Gave a presenation as an introduction to climate modelling as part of a Space Park Leicester public event in the lead up to COP26
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I helped man the UKESM stand "A Model Earth" at the Royal Society Summer Science exhibition as a member of the NCEO-UKESM evaluation group. We engaged with the general public, school children and people associated with the Royal Society, discussing with them climate change, how we model the Earth system, and how we test these models using satellite data.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/2017/summer-science-exhibition/exhibits/a-model...
 
Description The 26th U.N Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), Glasgow 2021. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The COP26 summit brought parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Several hundred people attended the event and our research in the form of videos and quizzes helped inform the general public and policy makers on the role played by models and observations to understand the impacts of global warming.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://ukesm.ac.uk/cop26/