Satellite image of the UK

Progress in UK Environmental Prediction research

European Space Agency 

​A recent workshop has highlighted the way forward for environmental predictions.

Over 50 UK scientists working across a range of sciences recently met to review progress in regional coupled modelling under the UK Environmental Prediction initiative.
 
The regional coupled prediction approach provides the tools with which to explore the interactions between different physical and biogeochemical components of the environment – bringing together sky, sea and land rather than modelling them separately. Prediction and warning of natural hazards, such as the impacts of severe weather, should then be improved by using the more integrated approach to forecasting.
 
In addition to encouraging the use of environmental prediction models to address fundamental research questions, the workshop provided a forum for discussing the potential of advances through regional coupled modelling with likely users of the outputs. This included guidance for future development from practitioners delivering operational forecasts and hazard warnings, policy-relevant evidence to government and advice to support decision-making across industry.
 
“The Met Office is investing in UK Environmental Prediction research to help us develop our prediction and warning systems so that they continue to improve in their skill and in the range of actionable information that they can provide to users,” said Prof. Simon Vosper, Director of Meteorological Science, Met Office. “The research we are doing today may pull through to operational use, for both weather and climate prediction, and deliver further benefits from computing and observational investments through the 2020s and beyond.”
 
Dr Eleanor Blyth, Head of Land Surface Modelling at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, added: “Major meteorological hazards are played out on the land: floods and heat waves are a combination of both the weather and the response of the land to extreme rainfall and temperature. The two branches of science – the land and the atmosphere – are often modelled in separate systems. UK Environmental Prediction research allows us to study the interaction of the land and the atmosphere, and to quantify the impact of the interaction on the hazards facing the UK. In addition, the link between the river systems and the oceans has not been explored extensively. High river flows and tidal inundation, as well as the role fresh water flows on the biogeochemistry of shelf seas, are all known to have an impact on the hazards in those regions. UK Environmental Prediction research offers us a chance to bring these disciplines together.”
 
“The National Oceanography Centre has a long history of involvement in coastal flood forecasting going back to the 1953 North Sea storm surge, which stimulated much research on storm tides around the UK coasts. In the last 20 years we have been involved in many interdisciplinary research projects in coastal waters, including air-sea coupling and land-ocean coupling, understanding the influence of freshwater discharge into the coastal zone, and tracking of pollutants and nutrients in coastal and shelf seas, in the UK, Europe and globally,” said Profs. Judith Wolf and Jason Holt, Marine Systems Modelling, National Oceanography Centre. “The underlying objective is to provide understanding to help coastal communities thrive and protect them from marine hazards. The UK Environmental Prediction programme builds on several decades of partnership between NOC and the Met Office, and allows us to consolidate the coupled modelling we have been developing and extend this into important new operational forecast capability for the UK.”
 
A number of the ongoing challenges were discussed during the workshop, including the need for long-term observations across the air-sea interface to support evaluation of coupled predictions, and recognition of the computational capacity and software engineering skills required to support such systems.
 
Research is continuing within the UK Environmental Prediction initiative. It aims to build on existing and new collaborations to understand more fully the role of feedbacks and complex interactions in the UK’s environment, and to deliver value from the potential of regional coupled modelling at high resolution.
 
Jerry Blackford, Head of Science for Marine Ecosystems Models & Predictions group, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said: “The marine environment plays a crucial role in human society, in particular via the provision of food, the remediation of waste and mitigation of climate change. At the same time the marine environment is subject to a host of anthropogenic pressures, including pollution, eutrophication and climate driven change. Understanding future states and outcomes of potential management scenarios is crucial to maintain productivity, sustainability and good environmental status. Plymouth Marine Laboratory are international leaders in developing models of coastal-ocean marine ecosystems and understanding and predicting change; addressing the needs of a diverse range of stakeholders, including policy makers, industry and the public. Recognising that marine systems are strongly coupled to both the land and atmosphere, UK Environmental Prediction provides a mechanism by which we can improve predictions of coastal-shelf processes as impacted by changing freshwater, nutrient and pollutant inputs from land whilst understanding how improved atmospheric forcing, heat exchange and production of volatile compounds affects both marine and atmospheric systems. PML’s involvement in UK Environmental Prediction builds on long term collaborations between PML, NOC and the Met Office.”

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