Public Release: 

Exeter receives £1.1 million to improve European long-term weather and climate forecasting

University of Exeter

The University of Exeter has received a £1.1 million grant to fund pioneering new research that will significantly improve crucial long-term weather forecasts across Europe.

A team of world-leading mathematicians from the University will lead innovative new research, which aims to advance current understanding of three key conditions that influence seasonal weather across the continent - the North Atlantic upper-ocean heat content, Arctic sea-ice, and the stratosphere.

The team of experts will exploit a combination of state-of-the-art climate model experiments, advanced statistical techniques and idealised dynamical frameworks to accomplish the project.

The motivation behind developing consistently reliable long-ranging forecasting is clear. With almost every aspect of modern society reliant on improved predictions of both weather and climate both by decade and season - whether it be agriculture, energy, civil and military defence, urban planning or even commodity trading - the project has the potential to offer marked benefits to both UK and European businesses and communities.

The four-year project will receive £1.1million in funding from the National Environment Research Council (NERC), in collaboration with the Exeter-based Met Office. This will be match funded by project partners Citadel LLC, a global financial institution.

The team will be led by Professor Mark Baldwin, Head of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Exeter, and includes colleagues Professor David Stephenson, Professor Geoff Vallis, Professor Mat Collins, Dr James Screen and Dr Daniel Williamson.

Professor Baldwin said: "This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to highlight the outstanding, collaborative work we do here at the University of Exeter, and also to help the Met Office to continue its world-leading research into long-range forecasting.

"Although progress has been made in recent years, having the capabilities to provide consistently accurate long-range forecasts remains a hugely complex scientific challenge. We will try to understand the causes of--and eventually predict--events such as the 2003 hot summer, the 2010 cold winter, and the 2012 wet summer.

"We believe the potential is there. There are already some mechanisms in place that are perhaps not fully exploited, and could potentially give us additional forecasting skill. This could yield substantial benefits for everyone across Europe and it is up to us to make it a reality."

Professor Baldwin said that two key goals were required to be met in order to improve seasonal forecasts - developing a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms, such as how the North Atlantic heat content affects the lower atmosphere, and improved climate prediction systems.

Professor Baldwin added: "To achieve these goals our work will utilise both the comprehensive models used for forecasts, and simpler dynamical models and statistical theory to help identify mechanisms. So more simply, our work will involve theory, a hierarchy of models of varying complexity, and the development of statistical tools for quantitative assessment of model performance."

Professor Dame Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist at the Met Office, said: "This project and related research in the UK will help us to better understand the predictability of climate and hence bridge the gap between weather forecasts and climate predictions."

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