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EnviroSim (Canada)

Country: Canada
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13 Projects, page 1 of 3
  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/I006672/1
    Funder Contribution: 807,791 GBP
    Partners: University of Reading, Met Office, CSIRO, University of Michigan–Flint, EnviroSim (Canada)

    PAGODA will focus on the global dimensions of changes in the water cycle in the atmosphere, land, and oceans. The overarching aim is to increase confidence in projections of the changing water cycle on global-to-regional scales through a process-based detection, attribution and prediction. The scientific scope prioritises themes 2,1,3,4 in the AO, adopting a focus on climate processes to extend our understanding of the causes of water source/sink uncertainty at the regional scale, which is where GCMs show huge variations concerning projected changes in precipitation, evaporation, and other water related variables. This model uncertainty is closely linked to shifts in large-scale circulation patterns and surface feedback processes, which differ between models. Furthermore, even where models agree with each other (for example, the suggested trend towards wetter winters and drier summers in Europe, connected to storm tracks and land surface processes), consistency with the real world cannot be taken for granted. The importance of quantitative comparisons between models and observations cannot be overstated: there is opportunity and urgent need for research to understand the processes that are driving changes in the water cycle, on spatial scales that range from global to microscopic, and to establish whether apparent discrepancies are attributable to observational uncertainties, to errors in the specification of forcings, or to model limitations. PAGODA will achieve its scientific objectives by confronting models with observations and reconciling observations, which possess inherent uncertainty and heterogeneity, with robust chains of physical mechanisms - employing model analysis and experiments in an integral way. Detection and attribution is applied throughout, in an iterative fashion, to merge the understanding from observations and models consistently, in order to isolate processes and identify causality. PAGODA is designed to focus specifically on the processes that govern global-to-regional scale changes in the water cycle, particularly on decadal timescales (the timescale of anthropogenic climate change). It addresses processes in the atmosphere, land and oceans, and brings together experts in climate observations, climate models, and detection and attribution. It seeks to exploit important new opportunities for research progress, including new observational data sets (e.g. ocean salinity reanalysis, TRMM and SSMIS satellite products, long precipitation records), new models (HadGEM3 & new capabilities for high resolution simulations), and the new CMIP5 model inter-comparison and to develop new methodologies for process-based detection, attribution and prediction.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/F017391/1
    Funder Contribution: 524,734 GBP
    Partners: WSU, VUA, University of Edinburgh, Dalhousie University, PRES, EnviroSim (Canada)

    The burning of biomass (e.g., shrubs, grasslands, trees) has an ongoing role in determining the composition of Earth's surface and atmosphere, and in some regions subsequent emissions of trace gases to the atmosphere rival those from fossil fuel burning. For nearly 40 years the scientific community has studied rates of emissions of trace gases from different types of biomass and associated amospheric gaseous concentrations but our knowledge remains incomplete, reflecting the heterogeneous and stochastic nature of this Earth System process. The advent of space-borne observations of land-surface and tropospheric chemistry provided the first glimpse of the large-scale nature and impact of burning in the global troposphere. These data remain key to scaling-up detailed point- or regional-scale measurements related to burning emissions or associated atmospheric concentrations. However, Earth Observation (EO) data products are difficult to interpret without the aid of computer models of atmospheric chemistry and transport and in situ measurements. In this proposal we have assembled an integrative programme of measurements and modelling of biomass burning that encompasses ground-based and aircraft in situ data, space-borne observations of tropospheric trace gases and particles, and a hierarchy of computer models of atmospheric chemistry (detailed point models to state-of-the-art global 3-D models). Here, we focus on biomass burning over northern boreal regions, with the aircraft missions sampling outflow from North America. Our research focus is to better understand atmospheric chemistry within air masses originating from regions of biomass burning. In particular, we follow up and expand upon surprising results from a recent NERC-funded aircraft campaign (Intercontinental Transport of Ozone and Precursors, ITOP) over the North Atlantic that measured and characterised outflow from the North American boundary layer as it travelled over the North Atlantic towards Europe. During ITOP the aircraft unintentionally sampled outflow from biomass burning and found that models analysing those data were unable to reproduce the large concentrations of organic molecules and the speciation of nitrogen species. As part of this proposal we plan to fly over the North Atlantic specifically to sample outflow from North American biomass burning equipped with a more suitable suite of aircraft instruments that will help to understand and resolve this unexplained discovery in atmospheric chemistry. The resulting data will be analysed by the gold standard Master Chemical Mechanism, an explicit model description of the degradation of relevant atmospheric compounds. One of the biggest challenges that atmospheric scientists typically face is the scaling-up from detailed in situ measurements to regional and larger spatial scales. Here, we address this challenge by using global 3-D models of atmospheric chemistry and transport and data from space-borne sensors by using the model as an intermediary between the aircraft data and the relatively coarse satellite data. By statistically 'tuning' the model using the detailed aircraft data (data assimilation) we can better estimate the magnitude and 3-D distribution of outflow from North American biomass burning and its resulting effects on atmospheric composition over the northern hemisphere. The proposal will provide us with a better fundamental understanding of the evolving atmospheric chemistry within biomass burning, an improved understanding of how to combine data from in situ and space-borne sensors to relate detailed small-scale data to larger spatial scales, and a better quantitative understanding of the impact of boreal forest fires on the atmospheric composition of the northern hemisphere.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/K000284/2
    Funder Contribution: 196,397 GBP
    Partners: EnviroSim (Canada), AUS (United States), AADNC, University of Sussex, McMaster University, Heriot-Watt University, University of Edinburgh, University of Ottawa, NERC Radiocarbon Laboratory

    The Arctic is undergoing rapid climatic change, with dramatic consequences for the 'Frozen World' (the 'cryosphere'), including reductions in the depth, extent and duration of sea ice, and seasonal snow cover on land, retreat of ice sheets/glaciers, and melting of permafrost ("ground that remains at or below 0 degrees C for at least two consecutive years"). This is important not only for local and regional ecosystems and human communities, but also for the functioning of the entire earth system. Evidence is growing that organic matter frozen in permafrost soils (often for many millennia) is now thawing, making it available for decomposition by soil organisms, with the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), both greenhouse gases (GHGs), as by-products. A major concern now is that, because permafrost soils contain 1672 petagrams (1 Pg = 1 billion tonnes) of organic carbon (C), which is about 50% of the total global below-ground pool of organic C, and permafrost underlies ~ 25% (23 million km2) of the N hemisphere land surface, a melting-induced release of GHGs to the atmosphere from permafrost soils could result in a major acceleration of global warming. This is called a 'positive biogeochemical feedback' on global change; in other words, an unintentional side-effect in the global C cycle and climate system. Unfortunately, the interacting biological, chemical and physical controls on CO2 and CH4 emissions from permafrost (and melting permafrost) environments to the atmosphere are the subject of much speculation because the scientific community does not know enough about the interactions between C and water cycling in permafrost systems. Warmer and drier soils may release more CO2, while warmer/wetter soils might release more CH4. Permafrost thawing also causes changes in the way water flows though the landscape (because frozen ground if often impermeable to water), and some areas may become drier, while others wetter. How the relative proportions of CO2 and CH4 emissions change, and their absolute amount, is critical for the overall 'global warming potential' (GWP) because these two gases have different potency as GHGs. Release of C from soils into freshwaters also needs to be taken into account because down-stream 'de-gassing' and decomposition of organic materials also influences releases of CO2 and CH4 from freshwater, or delivery of C to lakes/oceans. All-in-all, predicting the GWP of permafrost regions is scientifically challenging, and the interactions between the water (hydrological) and C cycles are poorly known. In this project we recognise the key role that hydrological processes play in landscape-scale C fluxes in arctic and boreal regions. In permafrost catchments in NW Canada (including areas where permafrost is known to be thawing) we will measure the capture of C from the atmosphere (through photosynthesis), its distribution in plants and soils, and the biological, physical and chemical controls of C transport and delivery from soils to freshwaters, and ultimately to the atmosphere as CO2 and CH4. In essence we wish to 'close the C cycle'. Field-based measurements of key processes in the water and C cycles, including geochemical tracer and state-of-the-art C, hydrogen and oxygen isotope approaches, will be linked by computer modelling. The project team, together with partners in Canada, the US and UK, is in a unique position to link the water and C cycles in permafrost environments, and we will deliver essential scientific knowledge on the potential consequences of climate warming, and permafrost thawing, for GHG emissions from northern high latitudes. Both for local peoples directly dependent on arctic tundra/boreal forest ecosystems for their livelihoods and cultural identity, and for the global community who must respond to, and anticipate, potential consequences of climate and environmental change, this project will represent a significant step forward in understanding/predictive capacity.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/P002099/1
    Funder Contribution: 580,838 GBP
    Partners: UBA, EnviroSim (Canada), University of Oxford, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, JBA Trust, University of Pennsylvania, KNMI, CSIR - South Africa, Lab of Climate and Environment LSCE

    The role of external drivers of climate change in mid-latitude weather events, particularly that of human influence on climate, arouses intense scientific, policy and public interest. In February 2014, the UK Prime Minister stated he "suspected a link" between the flooding at the time and anthropogenic climate change, but the scientific community was, and remains, frustratingly unable to provide a more quantitative assessment. Quantifying the role of climate change in extreme weather events has financial significance as well: at present, impact-relevant climate change will be primarily felt through changes in extreme events. While slow-onset processes can exacerbate (or ameliorate) the impact of individual weather events, any change in the probability of occurrence of these events themselves could overwhelm this effect. While this is known to be a problem, very little is known about the magnitude of such changes in occurrence probabilities, an important knowledge gap this project aims to address. The 2015 Paris Agreement of the UNFCCC has given renewed urgency to understanding relatively subtle changes in extreme weather through its call for research into the impacts of a 1.5oC versus 2oC increase in global temperatures, to contribute to an IPCC Special Report in 2018. Few, if any, mid-latitude weather events can be unambiguously attributed to external climate drivers in the sense that these events would not have happened at all without those drivers. Hence any comprehensive assessment of the cost of anthropogenic climate change and different levels of warming in the future must quantify the impact of changing risks of extreme weather, including subtle changes in the risks of relatively 'ordinary' events. The potential, and significance, of human influence on climate affecting the occupancy of the dynamical regimes that give rise to extreme weather in mid-latitudes has long been noted, but only recently have the first tentative reports of an attributable change in regime occupancy begun to emerge. A recent example is the 2014 floods in the Southern UK, which are thought to have occurred not because of individually heavy downpours, but because of a more persistent jet. Quantifying such changes presents a challenge because high atmospheric resolution is required for realistic simulation of the processes that give rise to weather regimes, while large ensembles are required to quantify subtle but potentially important changes in regime occupancy statistics and event frequency. Under this project we propose, for the first time, to apply a well-established large-ensemble methodology that allows explicit simulation of changing event probabilities to a global seasonal-forecast-resolution model. We aim to answer the following question: over Europe, does the dynamical response to human influence on climate, manifest through changing occupancy of circulation regimes and event frequency, exacerbate or counteract the thermodynamic response, which is primarily manifest through increased available moisture and energy in individual events? Our focus is on comparing present-day conditions with the counterfactual "world that might have been" without human influence on climate, and comparing 1.5 degree and 2 degree future scenarios. While higher forcing provides higher signal-to-noise, interpretation is complicated by changing drivers and the potential for a non-linear response. We compensate for a lower signal with unprecedentedly large ensembles. Event attribution has been recognised by the WCRP as a key component of any comprehensive package of climate services. NERC science has been instrumental in its development so far: this project will provide a long-overdue integration of attribution research into the broader agenda of understanding the dynamics of mid-latitude weather.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/K000284/1
    Funder Contribution: 286,071 GBP
    Partners: NERC Radiocarbon Laboratory, University of Sheffield, University of Sussex, McMaster University, University of Ottawa, University of Edinburgh, AUS (United States), AADNC, EnviroSim (Canada)

    The Arctic is undergoing rapid climatic change, with dramatic consequences for the 'Frozen World' (the 'cryosphere'), including reductions in the depth, extent and duration of sea ice, and seasonal snow cover on land, retreat of ice sheets/glaciers, and melting of permafrost ("ground that remains at or below 0 degrees C for at least two consecutive years"). This is important not only for local and regional ecosystems and human communities, but also for the functioning of the entire earth system. Evidence is growing that organic matter frozen in permafrost soils (often for many millennia) is now thawing, making it available for decomposition by soil organisms, with the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), both greenhouse gases (GHGs), as by-products. A major concern now is that, because permafrost soils contain 1672 petagrams (1 Pg = 1 billion tonnes) of organic carbon (C), which is about 50% of the total global below-ground pool of organic C, and permafrost underlies ~ 25% (23 million km2) of the N hemisphere land surface, a melting-induced release of GHGs to the atmosphere from permafrost soils could result in a major acceleration of global warming. This is called a 'positive biogeochemical feedback' on global change; in other words, an unintentional side-effect in the global C cycle and climate system. Unfortunately, the interacting biological, chemical and physical controls on CO2 and CH4 emissions from permafrost (and melting permafrost) environments to the atmosphere are the subject of much speculation because the scientific community does not know enough about the interactions between C and water cycling in permafrost systems. Warmer and drier soils may release more CO2, while warmer/wetter soils might release more CH4. Permafrost thawing also causes changes in the way water flows though the landscape (because frozen ground if often impermeable to water), and some areas may become drier, while others wetter. How the relative proportions of CO2 and CH4 emissions change, and their absolute amount, is critical for the overall 'global warming potential' (GWP) because these two gases have different potency as GHGs. Release of C from soils into freshwaters also needs to be taken into account because down-stream 'de-gassing' and decomposition of organic materials also influences releases of CO2 and CH4 from freshwater, or delivery of C to lakes/oceans. All-in-all, predicting the GWP of permafrost regions is scientifically challenging, and the interactions between the water (hydrological) and C cycles are poorly known. In this project we recognise the key role that hydrological processes play in landscape-scale C fluxes in arctic and boreal regions. In permafrost catchments in NW Canada (including areas where permafrost is known to be thawing) we will measure the capture of C from the atmosphere (through photosynthesis), its distribution in plants and soils, and the biological, physical and chemical controls of C transport and delivery from soils to freshwaters, and ultimately to the atmosphere as CO2 and CH4. In essence we wish to 'close the C cycle'. Field-based measurements of key processes in the water and C cycles, including geochemical tracer and state-of-the-art C, hydrogen and oxygen isotope approaches, will be linked by computer modelling. The project team, together with partners in Canada, the US and UK, is in a unique position to link the water and C cycles in permafrost environments, and we will deliver essential scientific knowledge on the potential consequences of climate warming, and permafrost thawing, for GHG emissions from northern high latitudes. Both for local peoples directly dependent on arctic tundra/boreal forest ecosystems for their livelihoods and cultural identity, and for the global community who must respond to, and anticipate, potential consequences of climate and environmental change, this project will represent a significant step forward in understanding/predictive capacity.