Ocean and Climate Project (NOClim) Phase II.
Module A: Theory and modelling of meridional oceanic heat transport
In addition, the project Polar Ocean Climate Processes (ProClim), funded separately by the Polar Climate Programme will be considered as a module D. The project intends to serve as an authoritative source of information and advice to the Research Council and the public concerning the difficult issues of possible rapid climate change related to ocean circulation. We will actively exploit international links and contacts both in scientific syntheses and public outreach, and also integrate other relevant national and international research results that emerge from other funding mechanisms, in particular the concurrent national Polar Climate Programme.
The project descriptions for each of the three modules provide scientific
discussion of the issues to be addressed, the background knowledge that
exists, more detailed sub-goals, and references which are not repeated
here. The present document contains an overview of what is planned to
be done in the project and by whom, the total resources required, and
linkages between activities. Near the end, there is also a discussion
of the scientific context and chosen profile of the project. Further background
is available on the web: http://www.gfi.uib.no/NOClimI,
Discussion of objectives
The main objective of module A is to examine the forcing, structure and sensitivity of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation in response to buoyancy forcing, internal mixing and wind driving, in idealized and realistic basin configurations
The main objective of module B is to unravel the chaining of events that occurred through known rapid changes in the MOC (Meridional Overturning Circulation).
The main objective of module C is to investigate how the oceanic fluxes of volume and heat into and out of the Nordic Seas relate to each other, and to the atmospheric and oceanic conditions within the North Atlantic and the Nordic Seas.
There is not a one-to-one correspondence between the stated sub-goals of the NOClim project as a whole (previous page) and these listed objectives. This is intentional. The main method in module A will be numerical modelling and theoretical interpretation. The main method in module B will be to obtain paleo proxy data and relate them to quantitative physical oceanography. The main method in module C will be comprehensive analysis of modern instrumental observations. The division in modules is a practical one, as the work within each module will be done by a group of scientists sharing data and tools in day-to-day work, while the contact between modules will mainly be on scientific interpretation and exchange. Each module can address the questions posed in their project description separately. However, the value of the research results and the principal objective of NOClim as a whole would be severely compromised if any one of the modules was not present.
In order to address subgoal 1, the modelling in module A will be essential. However, it is not only the most advanced modelling in A that will be used. Also combination with insights from B and C, and simplified, more theoretically oriented modelling in module A will be needed in order to put the conclusions on a firm basis and to understand the significance and various types of uncertainties in the results. Subgoal 2 is definitely most clearly related to module B, but modelling (A) and understanding of processes, time lags and responses as obtained from the modern data analysis (C) is also relevant. Subgoal 3 is an overarching goal for much of the work in C, but model related insights (A) will also be needed for an assessment of possible future changes, and precise characterization of previous events (B) is a necessary background for evaluating possible trends.
Overview of planned work in the modules
Module B will comprise efforts from Principal Investigator Trond
Module C will comprise efforts from Principal Investigator Cecilie
Mauritzen, and Arne Melsom (met.no), Øystein Skagseth, Martin W.
Miles and Tore Furevik (Bjerknes), Harald Loeng and Kjell Arne Mork (IMR),
Bogi Hansen (Faroese Fisheries Laboratory), Bill Turrell (Marine Lab,
Scotland), Truls Johannessen, Kjell Arild Orvik (UoB)
The project management structure and responsibilities will be as follows:
Project manager. Peter M. Haugan (funding equivalent to 20 % of full
Peter M. Haugan will serve as the project manager with overall responsibility for the scientific conduct of the project. This requires funding at the level of 20% of a full time scientist. He will actually use more time than this on in-kind research contributions, notably in module A and at no further cost. This funding of time spent by the project manager will be essential to secure that the duties in coordination, reporting to the research council as well as in various external connections, and contributions to overall synthesis, are properly carried out.
Jochem Marotzke is a key person behind the UK Rapid programme. From 2002, he serves on the NOClim Scientific Steering Group. He has visited Norway in 2001 and 2002 and is willing and interested to continue close contact with NOClim in a personal capacity as advisor to the entire project, as well as contributing directly to work in module A. Marotzke is a world leader in the field. We find his interest very inspiring and would like to continue to have him formally listed as affiliated with the project.
The proposed steering group comprises the module leaders and one deputy for each module, and also ensures representation from all participating institutions. We expect that very few if any formal decisions will have to be made at the level of the steering group. However, the steering group, chaired by the project manager and including the advisor, will be the highest level decision making body in the project. The Polar Ocean Climate Processes (ProClim) project funded by the Polar Climate Programme 2003-2006 (see below), will be viewed as a fourth module D in NOClim. ProClim can appoint two supplementary members of the NOClim Steering Group. They will be entitled to take part in Steering Group meetings as scientific representatives of their module D (just like the PI and deputy for each of modules A, B and C), but will not have a vote on NOClim-KlimaProg issues.
It was emphasized in the call for proposals that each of the modules should be possible to run independently of funding to the other modules. This has been built into the planning and organization of the present project. The day-to-day work will therefore proceed in each module with little interference across modules. The main task of the Steering Group is to advice and initiate cross-cutting activities and syntheses to maximise the outcome of the project as a whole with the help of the project office.
Experience from NOClim Phase I shows that it was crucial to maintain a well staffed project office to take care of internal and external coordination and public outreach (which got very good marks in the evaluation report). In particular, cross-task communication seemed to improve considerably with the emphasis on producing popular science articles with active involvement from a competent scientific coordinator. A continuation of this post at the level of 30 % of a full time scientist is a minimum for NOClim phase II. We welcome Solfrid S. Hjøllo back to this post when her parental leave period is finished.
Why do we need a well-staffed project office in the new project? Admittedly there will be smaller thematic spread within the project (definitely when considering only modules A, B and C) and fewer scientists involved so internal communication should proceed more smoothly. However, the experience gained will still apply. A competent scientific coordinator will act as a secretary to the steering group, and make sure that decisions are implemented and actions followed up. This scientific coordinator will also collate, make available, and integrate into the project relevant scientific results produced outside the project. Thereby and via public outreach activities, the project will serve as an authoritative source of information and advice to the research council and the public concerning issues of possible rapid climate change related to ocean circulation. The emphasis on synthesis will be much greater in Phase II than in Phase I. Particularly the need to integrate information and research results from a wide range of sources outside the modules will require substantial efforts at the level of a qualified scientist. This work produces results which are not always publishable in the scientific literature and therefore not suitable targets for scientists in the modules, but still very important for the project as a whole and its deliverables with respect to the expectations.
Budgeted costs for joint project meetings include costs of facilities, invited guests and travel for active contributors to modules A, B, and C. Scientists from associated projects, e.g. module D, may participate but have to cover their own travel costs. The scientific advisor will visit Norway at least once per year, including some extended stays. Running expenses for public outreach will be kept very low, emphasizing use of web site and contributions from the project office and project scientists to periodicals and television, but including a hard copy brochure in the final year of the project. There will also be some travel to present the project particularly in important international contexts.
Relations to other projects and activities
The project entitled Polar Ocean Climate Processes (ProClim) funded by
the Polar Climate programme 2003-2006, will be viewed as module D in NOClim.
The NOClim-ProClim links will be facilitated by having the same project
manager and by the complementarity of the goals and activities. As described
above, ProClim can appoint two supplementary members of the NOClim Steering
Group, while the project manager acts as chair of the steering group.
It is expected that the synthesis and production of assessment reports
to the public and concerned ministries will be considerably strengthened
by combining results from the two projects at the project and project
In NOClim phase I, there were 7 tasks each with a task leader, and each
task had contributors from several Norwegian institutions. A separate
Scientific Steering Group (SSG) was set up, including 4 senior scientists
who were not task leaders. This SSG was a very useful entity to oversee
the complex linkages between tasks as well as externally. Particularly
in the beginning of NOClim Phase I, there was considerable information
exchange with RegClim in order to ensure that individual scientists were
informed of activities, expertise and (model) data sets. Contacts with
the UK Rapid programme was initially via the SSG and project manager,
but was later expanded to mutual personal contacts at the level of individual
scientists. RegClim has been represented on the SSG from the start, and
Jochem Marotzke, a key person in UK Rapid programme, was a member of the
NOClim SSG during 2002.
The scientific context and profile of the project
Why focus on the oceanic part of the heat transport?
In a pioneering study of North Atlantic climate, Bjerknes (1964) argued that short term variability in Sea Surface Temperature (SST) is governed primarily by the atmosphere, while longer-term variability is governed by oceanic processes. This notion has been followed up by a large number of investigators (e.g. Deser & Blackmon, 1993, Kushnir, 1994, Hansen & Bezdek, 1996, Sutton & Allen, 1997, Marotzke & Pierce, 1997, Nilsson, 2000). For climate variability on a range of time scales, improved understanding of the coupling processes and various teleconnections, such as between ENSO and the North Atlantic, are of interest. The present project does not attempt to cover all these possibilities, some of which are better studied by other existing and strong research groups. Rather we build upon regional strengths which we may have in the Norwegian community, and focus on key processes which have been suggested as candidates for rapid climate changes. These processes are mainly oceanic.
In a very recent publication, Seager et al. (2002) by analysis of a 50 year NCEP data set, find that the warm wintertime surface air temperature anomaly in western Europe is primarily caused by zonal advection of warm air from the open sea and only weakly affected by oceanic heat flux divergence. The atmospheric wind pattern, and particularly the Icelandic Low, is forced thermally and by the net orographic forcing of the Rocky Mountains, i.e. by atmospheric processes which are reasonably well understood. Seager et al. (2002) conclude that "The deviations from zonal symmetry of winter temperature in the Northern Hemisphere is fundamentally caused by the atmospheric circulation interacting with a mixed layer ocean". In the principal objective of the project we focus on "processes which govern oceanic heat transport towards the Nordic Seas, and which provide the basis for atmospheric heat transport from the Atlantic sector towards northern Europe". The study of Seager et al. would agree that oceanic heat transport into the Nordic Seas is important regionally, since they find that the oceanic heat flux divergence in the Norwegian and Barents Sea determines ice extent, and that a very dramatic cooling would occur if this northernmost extension of the oceanic heat transport was reduced.
However, with this important exception, the findings of Seager et al. (2002) seem to imply that the role of the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Drift for the climate of Europe is minor, and that the North Atlantic may be approximated as a mixed layer storing heat from summer to winter and having no dynamics. Clearly this conclusion does not carry over to situations where extended ice cover would be possible (such as in past glaciations), since the seasonal heat storage in the ocean would then practically cease and could not sustain a winter time heat loss. However, Seager et al. (2002) have contributed an important demonstration of the role of open water masses in reducing seasonality and providing a maritime climate downstream of the atmospheric flow pattern, whereas a continental climate with cold winters prevails along coasts with predominantly offshore winds. These effects are the main reasons for the east-west asymmetry in winter air temperature across the northern Atlantic in contrast to some popular notions about a more direct role of the Gulf Stream, notions which even have found their way into scientific circles.
The findings of Seager et al. that the oceanic heat transport warms winters over land in an almost zonally uniform way does not however rule out a possible role of ocean circulation in rapid climate change. The oceanic heat transport provides the source for a significant warming of the atmosphere at high latitudes (6 ºC north of 35 ºN in the Atlantic in their estimates, but rather uncertain). That this contribution to winter time warming of the air is more zonally uniform than hitherto assumed does not remove its effect on climate. One rationale for a primary focus on oceanic processes in this project, is that the mentioned atmospheric processes are comparatively well understood, whereas the dynamics of the ocean circulation is poorly understood. The atmosphere is not neglected in the project. Atmospheric data are considered, and some coupled AOGCM studies are included, but the focus is kept on the oceanic part for which so little is firmly known, and such a wide range of hypotheses exists.