The National Centre for Atmospheric Science is a world-leader in atmospheric research and innovation, committed to changing lives.

We work to understand our atmosphere, how it is changing and how it affects our environment, our health and our prosperity.

Our atmosphere is at the heart of a living and breathing system

Our atmosphere is at the heart of a living and breathing system, which includes the land, oceans, ecosystems and even extends out into space.

The atmosphere interacts with every aspect of our lives, from the air that we breathe and the daily weather forecast, through to energy production and ecosystem health.

Collectively, society has never been more aware of how our actions are changing our environment, and how our environment shapes our day-to-day lives.

The relationship between humans and our atmosphere plays a defining role in the future of our planet.

Over the next five years…

Our role as research innovators will help society rise to the challenges ahead.

 

Climate Change

Our climate is changing faster than ever before in human history, with widespread effects on our food security, water resources, health and biodiversity. Forest fires are becoming more frequent, sea levels are rising, and habitats are being put under strain.

 

Air Pollution

The air we breathe is polluted. We breathe pollution that contributes to disease, damages crops, and places a burden on our economy.

 

Hazardous Weather

Floods, storms, heatwaves and droughts show how much weather can affect our lives. Hazardous weather can have social and economic impacts. It affects our food and water supply, damages our infrastructure, and puts public health at risk.

Our Mission & Vision

Our five year strategy sets out how we will unlock the answers to the biggest environmental issues of our time. Our research, skills and infrastructure will bring benefits to the UK, such as clean air solutions, resilience to climate change, and early-warning systems for high-risk weather.

Our Mission

is to understand our atmosphere, how it is changing, and how it impacts life on Earth.

Our Vision

is to push the frontiers of atmospheric science, and contribute to a healthy, resilient and productive global environment for the benefit of all.

Our Work

Over the last 15 years, we have grown in our role as a UK research centre and established ourselves within the global community.

At the heart of our organisation is a diverse and integrated team of research scientists, data analysts, technologists, managers and support staff. We believe that investing in our people keeps us at the forefront of atmospheric science.

Our staff are embedded within a consortium of universities and associated organisations and work closely with a wide range of partners, to fulfil our role on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council, UK Research & Innovation and society.

We conduct cutting-edge research, provide world-leading services for observing and modelling the atmosphere, and train the next generation of atmospheric scientists.

We encourage cooperation across the research community, and provide the UK with the capability to find solutions and drive long-term prosperity.

We provide independent advice to national and local government, businesses and wider society. We inform and influence global and national decisions, rooted in robust science, that lead to a more resilient and healthy environment for all.

Our wide-range of skills and knowledge, hand-in-hand with our research infrastructure, allow us to think ambitiously in response to the greatest environmental issues and scientific challenges of our time.

We look forward with a sense of profound determination, responsibility and inquisitiveness to our role assisting society to deal with the challenges of climate change, air pollution and weather hazards.

 

Our Values

We create a working environment where people feel motivated, supported, and respected. Our values underpin and guide everything we do:

 

Excellence

We deliver world-class research and provide state of the art services that help address global environmental issues, while working to achieve environmental sustainability across all our activities.

 

Innovation

We push the boundaries of science to find solutions to environmental challenges, and champion new ideas across our organisation and community.

 

Agility

We are flexible and responsive, and able to turn our attention rapidly to emerging opportunities and issues of greatest relevance to UK society.

 

Integrity

We are an open, generous and trusted organisation, with transparency and accountability at our heart.

 

Fairness

We strive to be a just organisation, committed to equality, diversity and inclusion.

Our Goals


1 Discover

Our goal is to make discoveries that push the frontiers of current knowledge, developing our understanding of the atmosphere and the environment for the benefit of everyone

We are leaders in atmospheric science and, through our research and innovation, we answer many of the biggest questions relating to our environment.

Our work brings together expertise from across scientific disciplines, spanning all scales from detecting the smallest cloud droplets to weather systems, from quantifying chemical reactions in laboratories to global pollution and from local weather influences to modelling global environmental change.

We undertake fundamental air pollution science, focusing on applications such as energy production, the consequences of behavioural and policy changes and the impacts on the built environment.

We study the processes and interactions which control our weather and climate, collecting long-term and targeted observations of the atmosphere, and using laboratory studies to enable predictions of environmental variability and change at regional to global scales and to understand the mechanisms of hazardous weather.

We exploit the latest technologies, from observing systems to high performance computers and software, and developing comprehensive models of the atmosphere and environment. We continually adapt our research as new opportunities emerge.

Case study: Monitoring drought for African food security

The TAMSAT project was established to support meteorological services and provide information to millions of people relying on rain-fed subsistence agriculture in Africa. 

Using a high-resolution rainfall dataset, satellite imagery and computer analysis, our researchers create a reliable stream of rainfall estimates that are issued every five days across Africa to help manage drought and protect livelihoods.

Building on this, researchers also created a novel alert system using a statistical and modelling framework that assesses upcoming agricultural risks, based on monitoring of the growing season, historical climate data, and weather forecasts. 

This forms part of an easy-to-access climate and weather monitoring service, which helps farmers with agricultural decision-making, and enables governments and insurers to manage the risk of drought and famine, by mobilising aid and payouts to farmers when needed.

There is a growing range of applications for the new rainfall analysis, which stems from the longevity of the dataset, its accuracy, and the near-real time release of data.

Since 2014, our drought alerts have led to insurance payouts that have compensated over two million African farmers affected by hazardous weather.

 

2 Support

Our goal is to support excellence in atmospheric science through state of the art services

Our expertise and infrastructure enables the UK to stay at the forefront of atmospheric research, and to play a leading role on the international stage.

We provide access to teams of experts, a world-class research aircraft, advanced ground-based observational facilities, laboratories, high performance computer modelling and software, and capabilities for analysing and storing massive volumes of data.

Through these national assets, we can measure, model and predict climate change, hazardous weather and air pollution, on regional to global scales.

Case study: Processing data for predicting climate change

Predicting global climate change requires complex computer models and vast amounts of data processing. Scientists use a globally-unique data facility, called JASMIN, to analyse large datasets such as those produced by high-resolution global climate models.

JASMIN enables large teams of scientists to work together to process climate simulations. Acting as a shared workspace with a large storage capability, the facility allows scientists to do data-intensive research in an efficient, flexible and interactive way. 

Our PRIMAVERA project, jointly led by the Met Office, used JASMIN to support studies of heat waves, floods and droughts. Over 100 scientists from across Europe worked together to process two petabytes of climate simulations, produced by seven different climate models.

Transferring large volumes of data can be a time consuming and laborious task. PRIMAVERA used JASMIN’s dedicated fast connection to the UK and European research networks – meaning that the data could be efficiently shipped to JASMIN, and allow collaboration.  

As datasets continue to grow and increase in resolution, high performance computing facilities like JASMIN are essential for supporting the needs of the environmental science community.

 

3 Create Impact

Our goal is to make a positive difference to the environment, to livelihoods, to health, and to our planet’s future.

We make sure our work is translated to real-world impact. We think beyond our research and apply ourselves to innovation for businesses, policy-makers, and society.

Through our responsive and forward-thinking approach, we help to find solutions when society needs them most.

We are at the forefront of international research and policy making. For example, informing policies to ensure that damaging ozone depleting substances are phased out and replaced by safe alternatives.

Case study: Responding to a North Sea gas leak

Our world-class airborne research facility, FAAM, was called into action by TOTAL to urgently assess a natural gas leak from the Elgin wellhead platform in the North Sea. 

TOTAL deployed a number of scientific organisations and methodologies to understand the nature and scale of the Elgin incident and bring the situation under control. Our unique team of scientists, engineers, flight technicians and specially-trained aircrew joined a large-scale response to quickly identify the source of the leaking gas, and accurately measure the flow rate.

Six missions were flown using our aircraft as part of the relief work. Within 48 hours of being deployed, our timely investigations showed that the gas leak was smaller and more manageable than initially thought. This meant that TOTAL were able to limit the duration of the gas leak and the cost to the UK economy, by deploying suitable environmental protection measures sooner than expected. 

Of the organisations and methods used, TOTAL considered the scientific services provided by FAAM to be the most robust and valuable of all, especially in accurately determining the gas release rate from the wellhead.

 

4 Develop

Our goal is to develop highly skilled people who can drive atmospheric science forward.

People are the heart of our organisation and our community. The UK’s strength in atmospheric science comes from their expertise, commitment, flexibility and diversity.

We recognise this by playing a leading role in developing the skills of current and future atmospheric scientists, and those who enable our science and services.

Case study: Summer schools to support future scientists

Our summer schools provide the next generation of scientists with a unique opportunity to learn from our experts. From understanding the core principles of climate science, to the practicalities of organising fieldwork experiments, we use our experience to help others drive atmospheric science forward.

Our Atmospheric Measurement Summer School and Climate Modelling Summer School challenge students to think ambitiously. Through guidance from eminent scientists, we equip students with knowledge and skills they can apply to future research challenges.

Students on our Atmospheric Measurement Summer School work in small teams with dedicated mentors, to prepare weather forecasts, study the layers of the atmosphere, operate instruments in remote locations, and investigate gases and airborne particles. 

In our Climate Modelling Summer School, students use climate models as tools for learning about the future of our planet. We provide access to cutting-edge supercomputers and tuition from expert climate modellers so that students can assess the risks of climate change.

 

5 Communicate

Our goal is to bring science and society together

Scientific discovery and its application is a highly collaborative process. The evolution of atmospheric science, and the solutions for today’s environmental challenges, wouldn’t be possible without experts who communicate their knowledge and practices.

Communications run through all our work, and we ensure that national and international conversations and decisions are rooted in robust evidence, as a trusted partner and source of independent advice.

We are committed to fostering excellent engagement across all of our science and services. Through peer reviews and conferences, policy workshops, business collaborations, citizen science and engaging young people, we create a dialogue between science and society that benefits all.

Case study: Evidencing the UK’s Clean Air Strategy

The UK’s Clean Air Strategy is the government’s plan to reduce air pollution, make our air healthier to breathe, and protect nature. Our research has helped government ministers to plan for the challenges presented by air pollution and identify potential solutions.

From explaining the effects of vehicle emissions on urban air quality, to shedding light on the sources of toxic gases inside our homes, our researchers have underpinned recommendations published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), cited in Parliamentary select committees, and filtered upstream to Cabinet Office.

We steer government publications on issues such as the impact of net zero emissions on air quality and the risks of indoor air pollutants through leading the government’s Air Quality Expert Group, and we regularly give evidence to select committees and participate in ministerial meetings.

On the back of this, we have seen our science and independent advice lead to reductions in urban pollution, inform legal proceedings on diesel engines, improve the pollution forecasts being used for policy models across Europe, and further investment in air pollution research.

 

6 Collaborate

Our goal is to achieve more together

We are part of a global network of organisations with the expertise and infrastructure to help society respond to changes and hazards in our environment.

Our success relies on being an open and generous partner – we achieve greater advances by working in partnership and collaboration than we do alone.

We lead the UK capability for atmospheric science, on behalf of UK Research & Innovation and the Natural Environment Research Council, and work closely with a wide range of academic and government partners to fulfil our role.

We have collaboration agreements and joint projects with many other organisations in the UK and internationally, including other research centres, government organisations and businesses.

Case study: Working together to develop the UK’s Earth system model

Through a partnership between the Natural Environment Research Council and Met Office, we developed the first version of the UK’s Earth system model, known as UKESM1. Together, our model helps to keep the UK at the forefront of international efforts to tackle climate change.

Earth system models take an all-in-one approach to modelling the climate, and rely on a network of partners to link together processes in the atmosphere, oceans, land and ice. 

They rely on real-world observations, fundamental scientific theory and big data computing from across the environmental science research community. We collaborate with Earth system modellers around the world to continuously improve model processes, conduct experiments, evaluate models, and share data sets. 

Internationally, the model’s outputs are freely available to scientists and being used in coordinated computer experiments to develop realistic scenarios for our planet’s future climate.

 

Work with us

Over the next five years, we will work with our partners to help society rise to the challenges ahead.

If you’d like to join us and push the frontiers of atmospheric science…

Work with us

Get a PDF copy

To download a print-ready PDF version of the NCAS Strategy 2020-2025, please register your interest.

Request PDF