Climate change in the Arctic-North Atlantic Region and Impacts on the UK (CANARI)

Start date
1 April, 2022
End date
31 March, 2027

Extreme weather events can have substantial impacts. For instance: the extensive UK flooding during the stormy winters of 2013/14 and 2015/16 resulted in £3 billion of damage to property and livelihoods. During the summers of 2017, 2018, and 2019, European heatwaves resulted in over 2,500 excess deaths in the UK. Wind-storms can also cause substantial impacts; the extreme winds in Storm Ciara in Feb 2020 resulted in £1.4 billion of insured losses across Europe. Climate change could also impact on the Northwest European shelf seas, affecting the sustainable management of marine resources such as fisheries. Consequently, adapting to climate change and building resilience are high priorities for the UK Government, businesses and society. However, projections of the impacts of climate change on the UK remain subject to very large uncertainties. Particularly relevant are the next few decades, an important timeframe for climate change adaptation. There is an urgent need to understand whether current management strategies and climate adaptation plans are adequate in the light of potential changes to the UK’s weather, climate and shelf seas.

The weather and climate of the UK are substantially determined by the large-scale circulation of the atmosphere and ocean in the North Atlantic. Many factors influence these circulation patterns but of particular concern for risk assessment is the potential for rapid or disruptive change. A crucial legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic is enhanced awareness of rapid, disruptive changes leading to cascading impacts and exposing systemic risks. The Arctic exerts strong, long-range influence over UK and European weather and climate by its controls on atmospheric and oceanic mechanisms such as the North Atlantic storm track, so that one of the most likely causes of disruptive regional change is the ongoing rapid Arctic warming, at twice the global mean rate. A major symptom of rapid Arctic warming is its progressive loss of sea ice. However, current climate models underestimate the observed decline of September sea ice area. This is likely due to models lacking or poorly representing key physical processes, eg, the low resolution of current models results in unrealistically weak oceanic boundary currents and atmospheric storms. This highlights the urgent need to better understand the processes that might result in rapid climate change, and the potential for early warning of the impacts of such changes on the UK.

To address these needs CANARI aims to advance understanding of the impacts on the UK arising from climate variability and change in the Arctic-North Atlantic region, with a focus on extreme weather and the potential for rapid, disruptive change. It will achieve this by bringing together the expertise and capabilities of NERC’s Research Centres with aligned activities in the UK Met Office to develop new high-resolution coupled model ensembles, improve process-based understanding and provide new hazard and impact modelling. CANARI will enable the UK to play an internationally-leading role in addressing the challenges of understanding regional climate change, and to provide detailed information about impacts on the UK.

CANARI will make substantial contributions internationally, e.g. to the World Climate Research and the World Weather Research Programmes and to IPCC AR7. CANARI will provide new tools, simulations, and collaborative opportunities for the wider research community. CANARI has been co-developed with major stakeholders, including UK Government departments (Defra, BEIS, CCC) and water, health, and finance sectors (EA, Public Health England, CGFI, OASIS). Working with our partners will enable CANARI to deliver Environmental Solutions and to address specific priorities of the NERC Delivery Plan. The legacy of CANARI will be a step-change in the understanding of regional climate change and its impacts on the UK, enabling more resilient adaptation pathways.

A man smiling for the camera

Thomas Bracegirdle

Atmosphere, Ice and Climate Dep Science Leader

BAS-Arctic Working Group, Atmosphere, Ice and Climate team

A person smiling for the camera

Emma Boland

Ocean Adjoint Modeller

Polar Oceans team

A woman standing in front of a tree.

Hua Lu

Atmos Sci: Stratosphere/Troposhere Coupling

BAS-Arctic Working Group, Atmosphere, Ice and Climate team

Avatar photo

Tony Phillips

Climate Model Data and Analysis Software Manager

Atmosphere, Ice and Climate team