The North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study: ACSIS
Major changes are occurring across the North Atlantic (NA) climate system: in ocean and atmosphere temperatures and circulation, in sea ice thickness and extent, and in key atmospheric constituents such as ozone, methane and aerosols. Many observed changes are unprecedented in instrumental records. Changes in the NA directly affect the UK’s climate, weather and air quality, with major economic impacts on agriculture, fisheries, water, energy, transport and health. The NA also has global importance, since changes here drive changes in climate, hazardous weather and air quality further afield, such as in North America, Africa and Asia.
ACSIS (the North Atlantic Climate System Integrated Study) was an integrated programme of sustained observations, synthesis, and numerical modelling designed to address the overarching objective of enhancing the UK's capability to detect, attribute and predict changes in the North Atlantic (NA) Climate System, comprising: the North Atlantic Ocean, the atmosphere above it including its composition, and interactions with Arctic Sea Ice and the Greenland Ice Sheet. Specific objectives are:
1. To provide the UK science community with sustained observations, data syntheses, leading-edge numerical simulations, and analysis tools, to facilitate world-class research on changes in the NA climate system and their impacts.
2. To provide a quantitative, multivariate, description of how the NA climate system is changing.
3. To determine the primary drivers and processes that are shaping change in the NA climate system now and will shape change in the near future.
4. To determine the extent to which future changes in the NA climate system are predictable.
ACSIS enabled and delivered research to address the following research questions:
RQ1. How have changes in natural and anthropogenic emissions and atmospheric circulation combined to shape multiyear trends in NA atmospheric composition and radiative forcing?
RQ2. How have natural variability and radiative forcing combined to shape multi- year trends in the NA physical climate system?
RQ3. To what extent are changes in the NA climate system predictable on multi-year timescales?
ACSIS was a partnership between six NERC centres (NCAS, NOC, BAS, NCEO, CPOM, PML) and the UK Met Office, exploiting the partners' unique capabilities in observing and simulating the atmosphere including its composition, the ocean, the cryosphere, and the fully coupled climate system.
The observational component brought together records from Earth-based (e.g. Cape Verde observatory, FAAM missions, RAPID, Argo, OSNAP) and spacebased (e.g. Cryosat, MetOP) platforms with a focus on the sustained observations that are necessary to measure changes on multi-year timescales.
ACSIS worked closely with the NERC-Met Office UKESM programme on Earth System Modelling, and contributed to and benefited from UK participation in international observing programmes such as UK-US RAPID, EU ATLANTOS and Global Atmospheric Watch, and modelling programmes such as CMIP6 and EU PRIMAVERA.
The legacy of ACSIS includes: new long-term multivariate observational datasets and syntheses; new modelling capabilities and simulations with unprecedented fidelity. ACSIS provided advances in understanding and predicting changes in the NA climate system that can be exploited in further research and related activities, for example to assess the impact of these changes on the UK and other countries - e.g. in terms of the consequences for hazardous weather risk, the environment and businesses. ACSIS outputs will also inform policy on climate change adaptation and air quality.
ACSIS was fully funded for five years (2016-2021)by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) through National Capability Long Term Science Multiple Centre (NC LTS-M) (grant NE/N018028/1) which aimed to encourage its research centres to work closely together to tackle major scientific and societal challenges. ACSIS is one of the projects funded through this new way of allocating national capability funding, designed to enable more ambitious science than any single research organisation could provide.