13 January, 2022 News stories

A new project to improve scientists understanding of the impact of space weather and climate change on the atmosphere starts this month (January 2022).

A team from British Antarctic Survey, with colleagues from the University of Leeds and University of Bath, have been awarded a £2 M NERC grant to develop a pathway to improved predictability of the middle/upper section of the atmosphere known as the mesosphere and lower thermosphere/ionosphere MLTI region.

In order to accurately predict impacts of space weather and climate variability on the whole atmosphere scientists need an accurate representation of the whole atmosphere.  The MLTI region (~50-120 km altitude) is the most poorly understood region of the atmosphere, it is the critical boundary between two domains (the climate domain and the space weather domain) and this presents a problem when trying to model and prediction conditions in the whole atmosphere. This lack of knowledge surrounding the MLTI is an impediment to future advances.

The project, called Meso-S2D (Mesospheric sub-seasonal to decadal predictability), aims to quantify MLTI variability and determine the physical drivers of MLTI variability across time scales ranging from hours (sub-seasonal) to the decadal. The team will utilise project partner data from high-latitude Scandinavia including the new, ~£50 million, high-resolution ionospheric radar EISCAT 3D, which is the most heavily instrumented region on Earth for MLTI studies, and the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM) to achieve this goal.

An artists impression of the new, ~£50 million, high-resolution ionospheric radar in high Scandinavia

BAS interim Atmosphere, Ice and Climate science leader, Dr Tracy Moffat-Griffin, says:

“MesoS2D is timely in that we are in a golden age of MLTI observations and, together with one of the world’s most sophisticated whole atmosphere models, MesoS2D will deliver the tools necessary to improve sub-seasonal to decadal predictability of the MLTI. This is essential to enable accurate predictions of climate & space weather effects on the whole atmosphere system.”

Dr Tracy Moffat-Griffin (BAS) is the PI working with Dr Andrew Kavanagh (BAS), Prof Dan Marsh (Leeds), Dr Corwin Wright (Bath), Emer Prof Nick Mitchell (BAS Honorary Researcher). MesoS2D starts in Jan 2022 and will last 3 years, employing 5 additional staff to help deliver the project.