Working with the Met Office
Exeter is home to a number of globally renowned climate and weather scientists due to the combined intellectual expertise of the Met Office and the University of Exeter.
The national weather service and the University have developed a strong partnership, collaborating on climate and weather science since 2003, when the Met Office relocated to Exeter.
The University played a part in the decision to move the Met Office to the city, which resulted in one of the largest high-performance computer moves in Europe at the time.
The University not only provided a basis for research collaboration, but also job opportunities for the families of the Met Office staff. At a stroke, the number of scientists in Exeter doubled, setting the precedence for Exeter to become a hub for weather and climate science.
Professor Julia Slingo OBE, Chief Scientist at the Met Office said: “Working with the University of Exeter has been fruitful in many aspects from extensive research collaboration to novel business ventures.
“The partnership has grown throughout the years as Exeter’s strengths in Climate Science have developed, providing enormous potential to tackle key challenges that a changing climate poses.”
Since the partnership began, the two organisations have worked on almost 50 collaborative projects worth more than £14million.
One of these projects, ENDGame, aims to improve the Met Office’s current weather and climate prediction model, by developing more accurate numerical techniques. It is due to become operational in May 2014.
Another project will enable the Met Office to save lives with improved early warning systems and better prediction of extreme weather, such as cold and heat waves or tropical storms.
Researchers have found that the predictability of extreme weather depends on observations of the weather event, how the weather event changes with time, and the delay between starting and finishing the prediction process. The PREDEX project will combine complex statistics and mathematics with climate science to enhance prediction times.
Human-induced rainfall changes
Researchers on the PAGODA project have found evidence of human-induced changes in rainfall, with wet regions becoming wetter whilst dry regions are becoming drier in response to a warming planet. This demonstrates how increased levels of greenhouse gases can affect our weather systems.
Professor Mat Collins, Joint Met Office and Exeter Chair in Climate Change, is involved in this project. Professor Collins researches the El Nino, the Indian Monsoon, and Artic predictability. He also teaches and supervises researchers from both organisations.
The partnership is also working on projects looking at the future of climate change.
Future of climate change
The HELIX project aims to create predictions of worlds with different changes in temperature and different societal attitudes. The main outcome will be eight global scenarios that can be used to inform business and government on how best to adapt to various global climate scenarios.
This project is led by Professor Richard Betts, from the Hadley Centre who holds a Chair in Climate Impacts. Professor Betts researches the impact of climate change on water resources and how our land use can cause changes in climate.
Since the early stages of the partnership, both organisations have jointly funded academic posts. These posts encourage closer collaboration across key research areas by leading research groups and projects.
Met Office and Exeter Joint Chair in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, Professor John Thuburn, is researching the science of fluids in motion as well as the dynamics of climate systems, and has been central to the ENDGame project outlined above.
Professor Jim Haywood a Met Office Scientist and Professor of Atmospheric Science, led an aircraft-based project to measure the impact of the ash from the Icelandic Eyjafjallajokull eruption. He is interested in measuring particles in our atmosphere and investigating their impact upon the weather, air-quality, visibility, and climate.
The partnership has also worked on a number of projects that allow business to benefit from their combined expertise.
They have collaborated on the Centre for Business and Climate Solutions – a business technology centre that applies climate science to the commercial world and helps companies adopt sustainable ways of working, which Professor Collins is also involved in.
The Met Office is also involved in the GW4+ NERC Doctoral Training Partnership – a consortium of excellence in innovative research training for the environmental sciences. As a result a number of joint PhD studentships have been generated at Exeter in subjects ranging from climate change communication to the effect of sun exposure on vitamin D levels and skin conditions.
The gravitas of this partnership will be marked by the Transformational Climate Science conference in May 2014, where climate change experts from both organisations are meeting to present and critically reflect on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Fifth Assessment Report, a clear outlook on the scientific knowledge relating to climate change.
As the two organisations continue to work together, results are expected from new research projects, such as CREDIBLE, which aims to improve the handling of natural hazards by improving communication between scientists and communities, and hopefully reducing the loss of live and destruction to homes.
RAGNARoCC will investigate the greenhouse gas sources and sinks from the Atlantic Ocean, in an attempt to understand how they will affect future climate change levels.
Collaboration with the College of Medicine and Health via the MEDMI project will connect a number of databases together to help understand the links between climate, the environment and our health; such as how death rate changes with temperature and how Lyme’s disease varies with the amount of rainfall.
Interdisciplinary research collaborations with other University partners, such as Plymouth Marine Laboratory, will further add to the partnership by looking at how climate affects the oceans and the animals that inhabit them.
This relationship between the University and the Met Office has enabled the development of world-leading research, improved the local economy with the creation of new business and jobs, and established the South West of the UK as a hub of climate change expertise.