OR/14/042 Exemplar and Infrastructure projects

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Royse, K R, and Hughes, A G (editors). 2014. Meeting Report: NERC Integrated Environmental Modelling Workshop (Held at the British Geological Survey, Keyworth, 4–5 February). British Geological Survey Internal Report, OR/14/042.


Discussions during the workshop and immediately afterwards identified four ‘exemplar’ projects: megacities and their resources; southern ocean and krill populations; coastal resilience with reference to erosion; and volcanic ash cloud and their effects on aviation. To enable these projects and others to be undertaken, it was recognised that an overarching infrastructure needs to be developed to facilitate this. Therefore, a separate infrastructure project has been scoped. A summary of the infrastructure scoping study and the four exemplars is provided below,


Name Infrastructure
Location National/international
Purpose To put in place key items of scientific infrastructure that will enable NERC researchers and their partners to exploit the world leading position they have achieved in integrated environmental modelling (IEM).
Organisations/individuals involved BGS, CEH, NOC, PML, NCAS, BAS
Objective NERC, along with its European partners, has played a leading role in transforming IEM into a useful and useable technology. The challenge now is to put that technology into the hands of NERC scientists in a form which they can all use. If we can do so then we will greatly increase their ability to address the challenges of our time and raise the value of our contribution to society.
Approach adopted 1. Assemble/build from existing material on-line best practice guides for:
  • Developing linkable models and integrated modelling
  • Integrated modelling

2. Establish or adopt a basic metadata standard and related search tools for models and associated modelling components that will enable modellers to:

  • Catalogue linkable modelling components (and any other models or modelling components)
  • Discover and decide the appropriateness of linkable modelling components

3. Adopt, adapt or develop a basic set of controlled vocabularies for naming and defining the variables exchanged between models for use in relation to 2a.
4. Make information available on and encourage the use of the more widely used interface standards. e.g. ESMF, OpenMI, OMS, etc.
5. Develop 'adapters' to enable modelling components using different interface standards to communicate.
6. Make available or secure access to one or more modelling platforms and their related tools for:

  • Making models linkable
  • Linking models into a composition (i.e. creating an integrated model)
  • Running the linked model
  • Logging linked model runs

7. Acquire a basic set of reformatting and visualization tools for analysing the output of linked model runs.

Notes The platforms should cover the widely used modelling environments, e.g. NET, java, Linux, etc.


Name Megacities: Critical catchment capital coastal environmental observatory (Megacities C4EO)
Location London the Thames catchment and the Thames Estuary
Purpose A large fraction of the Earth’s population lives in megacities therefore to protect these cities and their inhabitants there is a need to increase the resilience of ‘coastal megacity catchments’ to future environmental and societal change
Organisations/individuals involved BGS, CEH, NOC, PML, NCAS
Question(s) being addressed How will environmental change affect the availability of resources to London’s population? What physical, biological and chemical impact will a change in the magnitude and frequency of weather extreme events, and how will these things impact public health? How much will climate change cost in terms of protecting vital infrastructure, housing and ecosystems?
Approach adopted The approach will comprise four closely related and essentially parallel components, each of which will help inform the design and next-steps of other components. These are:

1. Spatial environmental observations: Set up and further develop a networked, physical environmentalobservatory (similar in style to the US Critical Zone Obs). Environmental observations would include: sediment turbidity sediment flux, auto sampling of sediment for sediment quality, sediment coring for temporal record of sediment quality and flooding frequency, metals and nutrients within sediments and adsorbed onto riverine sediments, CO2 evasion from river waters, soil erosion, DOC, DO, pH, T, etc.
2. Temporal environmental observations: Develop a record of antecedent conditions (e.g. flood frequency, channel development) to serve as a baseline to which current behaviour can be compared and from which we develop the baseline recurrence behaviour.
3. Develop an IEMP in the context of a C4EO in order to enable software tools to be integrative and communicative. The IEMP is the software partner to the physical environmental observatory.
4. Run scenario and sensitivity testing using high-resolution environmental response models as constrained by observational data from this observatory. Modelling of this sort will also help design the setup of the environmental observatory.

Models to be linked Need holistic understanding of the water and sediment routing environment in the first instance, so require linkage of climate, surface processes, river, estuarine, marine and groundwater models.
Stakeholders involved Many and varied: Port of London Authority, Environment Agency, Defra, Association of Business Insurers, GLA, City of London Cabinet Office, NHP, Thames Water et al, Crown Estate Energy companies, DoT and Coastal communities > SMPs

Southern Ocean[edit]

Name Integrated Modelling of the Southern Ocean ecosystem
Location Southern Ocean
Purpose To assess the response of the Southern Ocean marine ecosystem to environmental change by developing an integrated modelling framework.
Organisations/individuals involved BAS, NOC, PML, NCAS, Met Office
Question(s) being addressed 1. How can we sustainably manage the Southern Ocean krill fishery in the context of increased demand and climate change?

The underlying models required to answer Q1 will also be able to contribute to the following questions:
2. What is the size of the Southern Ocean carbon sink and how is it changing?
3. What is the role of the Southern Ocean in the global ocean circulation?

Approach adopted Antarctic krill is a key species in the Southern Ocean marine ecosystem; it is central to the Antarctic marine food web, is important in biogeochemical cycling in the ocean and is the target of a commercial fishery that is likely to be increasingly exploited as pressure for food grows. Antarctic krill is found throughout the Southern Ocean and is associated with a range of habitats including shelf environments, the open ocean and the sea ice zone.

Understand what drives the present day distribution of Antarctic krill on regional and circumpolar scales using time-varying physical and biogeochemical data and model output linked to a biological krill model.

Use modelled scenarios of future change as drivers of 1. to examine the impacts of environmental change on the ecosystem.

Outputs from 1. and 2. will form a major input to the development of food web and fishery-based models for the Southern Ocean.

Provision of the input and output data at coherent temporal and spatial resolutions, as dictated by each particular model, is key to successfully integrating the data sets and models, and to validation and assessment of the sensitivity of the constituent components. Therefore, a central aim of this project is to develop the integration system using standard, generic, shared IEM infrastructure, and will involve the coordination of activities across the UK environmental modelling community.

Models to be linked Atmosphere-ocean-sea ice, biogeochemical, life cycle, food web, fishery and climate models and datasets at varying temporal and spatial resolutions.
Stakeholders involved Foreign and Commonwealth Office, South Georgia Government, Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), fisheries.
Notes This approach can be applied to other marine ecosystems by changing the key species at the centre of this structure.

Coastal Resilience[edit]

Name Coastal Resilience
Location Coastal region of the UK
Organisations/individuals involved NCAS, BAS, NOC, PML, BGS (Mike Ellis)
Question being addressed How can the resilience of coastal regions to erosion and flooding be improved? How can we best assess the sensitivity of UK’s coasts to changes in future forcing (e.g. wave climates, sea-level rise, storm surges) at the necessary spatial and temporal scales that are useful to policy and decision makers?
Approach adopted We aim to tackle this in two related stages. The first is to quantitatively assess the sensitivity of coasts to possible changes in external forcing (wave climate, sea-level rise, storms) and possible management scenarios over decadal to centennial time-scales.

Such modelling requires an ensemble approach and is most efficiently accomplished by so-called reduced complexity (exploratory) models. This approach allows the relatively rapid identification of coastal reaches that are highly vulnerable to likely future changes. The second stage targets these highly vulnerable sites with more detailed models to provide focused solutions. All models will require training from existing datasets.

Models to be linked Climate, ocean circulation, wave generation, coastal morphology change models (there are a few), CFD models.
Stakeholders involved Defra, Environment Agency, Natural England, Crown Estate


Name AshCloud
Location International
Organisations/individuals involved NCAS, BGS
Question being addressed How can the effects of volcanic ash on aircraft in the atmosphere be predicted and avoided?
Approach adopted By developing an understanding and prediction of volcanic ash generation and combining this with models of particulate movement in the atmosphere, then a better prediction of the path of volcanic ash clouds can be made. This can be used in combination with aero engine manufactures and plane operators to ensure safer air travel during ash events.
Models to be linked Ash generation, atmospheric models
Stakeholders involved Cabinet Office, Rolls Royce, Airline representatives

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