The Big Chill - Observing and modelling cold air outbreaks

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Environmental Sciences


In this project you will investigate cold-air outbreaks using a number of case studies gathered from aircraft-based field campaigns. You will run the Met Office's Unified Model (the MetUM) at high resolution to simulate these cases and make use of the detailed in-situ observations to challenge the model forecasts. You will test various new model parameterizations, for example, testing the 'blended' 3D/1D turbulence scheme; testing new developments in cloud microphysics parameterization; and simulating cloud streets (Liu et al. Geophysical Res. Lett. 2004). The MetUM is a state-of-the art numerical weather and climate prediction model, which is used for operational weather forecasting, seasonal forecasting and climate modelling on all scales. Consequently your research with the MetUM is expected to lead to direct improvements in these applications. You may also make use of a 'Single Column Model' version of the MetUM, which is simpler to run and allows controlled single point experiments.

The observational data includes one cold-air outbreak case from GFDex (the Greenland Flow Distortion Experiment; Renfrew et al., Bull. Amer. Meteorol. Soc., 2008) in which the aircraft followed a Lagrangian 'air parcel', thus allowing sources and sinks of heat and moisture to be accurately observed. It also includes several cold-air outbreak flights from the ACCACIA project (flying over sea ice around Svalbard in the Arctic during March 2013), and from the PIKNMIX project (flying over the sea between Iceland and the UK). Several case studies will be chosen for closer examination and simulation. You will also have the opportunity to take part in a major international field campaign focused on the Iceland and Greenland Seas in March 2018, when new aircraft-based and ship-based boundary-layer observations of cold-air outbreaks will be made. The Iceland Sea is relatively little-studied, but this is now changing, as we are discovering it plays a critical role in creating and transporting dense water from the subpolar seas into the North Atlantic and this role is now being affected by Arctic sea-ice retreat (Moore et al., Nat. Clim. Change, 2015; and see This field campaign will enable a considerable step forward in our understanding of these processes, and your contribution will contribute to furthering our understanding of the role that cold-air outbreaks play in this critical region.


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publication icon
Renfrew I (2019) The Iceland Greenland Seas Project in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

Description Bjerknes Visiting Fellowship
Amount kr 25,000 (NOK)
Organisation University of Bergen 
Sector Academic/University
Country Norway
Start 10/2019 
End 11/2019
Title Iceland-Greenland Seas Project Ship Meteorology Data Set 
Description Surface layer meteorological measurements were made during the Iceland Greenland Seas Project field campaign from a variety of observation platforms including several WeatherPack systems, RPG Hatpro Radiometer and a Windcube LIDAR. This dataset presents a quality controlled combination of observations from these instruments, as indicated by the flags. Further interpolated versions of key variables are provided in an effort to provide a continuous time series. Sea surface temperature was measured by the underway SBE38 bow temperature sensor for the majority of the cruise, with 2m CTD observations used to fill several short gaps where high frequency observations were unavailable. Additionally these observations have been processed using the COARE 3.0a bulk aerodynamic flux algorithm to provide bulk variables at standard heights and estimated surface fluxes. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This data set is being used by several project partners for their studies currently in development. It provides the best quality ship based surface layer meteorology data currently available for the Iceland Greenland Seas Project.