Reading climate forecasting research projects get $21m funding
Release Date 30 April 2021
Research funding worth a total of $21m has been awarded to projects involving University of Reading scientists, which seek to develop new models to better predict how the Earth will look in future under climate change.
Reading is leading one project and involved in another, out of four projects selected for support from Schmidt Futures a philanthropic initiative founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, in its Virtual Earth System Research Institute (VESRI). Reading is one of only two UK institutions funded under the scheme.
Professor Sandy Harrison is Project Director of the new 5-year project Land Ecosystem Models based On New Theory, obseRvations and ExperimEnts (LEMONTREE). The $10.9m-funded project, of which Reading will receive $2.1m, will develop a next-generation model of the terrestrial biosphere and its interaction with the carbon cycle, water cycle and climate.
Professor Alberto Carrassi is a co-investigator and working package leader on the Scale Aware Sea-Ice Project (SASIP), awarded $10.3m, of which Reading will receive $1.2m. It aims to develop an innovative sea ice model that will produce more detailed predictions for how Arctic and Antarctic sea ice will change in future under climate change.
LEMONTREE, which also involves Reading’s Professor Pier Luigi Vidale, will combine observations and simulations to improve how land ecosystems are incorporated in climate models.
It will draw on eco-evolutionary optimality theory - the idea that natural selection has resulted in elimination of uncompetitive behaviour and that by balancing the costs of competing processes plants can adapt to their environment on time scales ranging from days to years - as a basis for building ecosystem models that rest on firm theoretical and empirical foundations. This approach can provide a simpler and more robust way to include vegetation in the land-surface component of climate models.
These models should eventually yield more reliable projections of future climates, and help address issues in sustainability, including the potential to maintain the Earth’s capacity to regulate the carbon cycle while benefiting human well-being and development.
Professor Harrison, a scientist studying biochemical cycles at the University of Reading, said: "The LEMONTREE consortium has been collaborating informally for several years, and I am very excited that with the support of Eric and Wendy Schmidt, through their philanthropic initiative Schmidt Futures, we have the opportunity to fast-track our efforts.
“The project will create a better understanding of the role played by vegetation in natural cycles, and allow us to predict the impacts of future climate change on the ecosystems which both regulate our climate and provide the resources humankind needs to live.”
LEMONTREE is an international consortium with participants from the University of Reading, Imperial College London, Columbia University, the University of Pittsburgh, UC Berkeley, Utrecht University, Seoul National University, Texas Tech University, Tsinghua University, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, the UK Met Office and the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts.
SASIP, led by Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France, will use artificial intelligence and data assimilation to exploit the vast amount of data on sea ice that exists from observations and simulations. The model it seeks to develop will better represent sea ice dynamics and temperatures, to be used by climate researchers. Professor Alberto Carrassi, NCEO divisional director for data assimilation at the University of Reading, said: “Sea ice melting at the Earth’s poles is one of the biggest climate change concerns.
“More accurate predictions for how sea ice will decline in the coming decades and centuries will be crucial to planning for these dramatic changes, and guiding us in action to minimise them as much as possible.”
SASIP participating Institutions are the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Brown University, Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, University of Reading, Sorbonne Université, École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, Centre Européen de Recherche et de Formation Avancée en Calcul Scientifique, Mercator Ocean International, Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change, and University of Bamako.