Announcement of Opportunity

Monitoring the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation

Call for Outline Bids

Closing Date: 28 March 2002


**** This call is now closed ****

The Natural Environment Research Council has established a thematic programme on Rapid Climate Change (RAPID), with funding of 20M over 6 years. The programme aims to investigate and understand the causes of rapid climate change, with a main (but not exclusive) focus on the role of the Atlantic Ocean's thermohaline circulation (THC). The purpose of the RAPID programme is to improve our ability to quantify the probability and magnitude of future rapid change in climate. This Announcement of Opportunity (AO) is focused on a specific time-critical element of the RAPID programme; in parallel, another AO is being issued that addresses the broader science objectives of RAPID .

A key research element of the programme is the design and implementation of a prototype pre-operational system that can continuously monitor the strength and structure of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC; of which the THC is the dominant component). The proposed system might include elements of both observations and modelling. This AO seeks outline bids for such a system. Any proposed approach would need to take account of the following requirements:

a) as a minimum the system potentially should be able to monitor the strength and structure of the Atlantic MOC on time scales from months to decades, and collect a 3-4 year continuous time series of data during the course of the 6 year RAPID programme.

b) the system should also provide some estimate of the heat and freshwater transports associated with the MOC.

c) it will be necessary to specify and justify the expected accuracy of the estimates of the quantities of interest that the proposed system can provide, with a view to the eventual requirements of an operational monitoring system (see g below).

d) observations acquired by the system will need to be analysed to show that they provide the required information to the specified accuracy. An initial assessment of the state of the MOC over the period of observation should be made.

e) the system should be sufficiently flexible to allow lessons learnt from the early stages of its operation to be used to re-design and improve its measurement capability during the later stages.

f) the proposed system should take into account existing observation and modelling efforts and their outputs.

g) by the end of the RAPID programme, a design for an operational version of the monitoring system, and any technological and other developments necessary to its implementation, should have been produced. The long term objectives of such a system would be to detect and attribute changes in the MOC on a decadal time-scale, and to aid prediction of future MOC changes, including early warning of rapid climate change.

The Steering Committee will assess the outline bids in terms of the potential to meet the stated requirements and the cost effectiveness of the proposed approach, and will invite full proposals accordingly. Indicative costs (including any anticipated re-design and improvement costs within the timeframe of the programme) should be provided in the outline bid. The Steering Committee has allocated up to 25% of the RAPID budget for the development and implementation of the system. The Hadley Centre has offered to provide some advice, based on their ocean modelling capability, to anyone intending to submit a bid. Further details can be found under Modelling Support for MOC proposals.

Outline bids are invited from eligible UK researchers (refer to the NERC Grants Handbook. Given the requirements stated above, proposals for awards of up to 5 years duration will be considered. For queries relating to scientific aspects of the AO contact the Science Co-ordinator (Dr. Meric Srokosz, tel: 023-8059-6414, e-mail: mas@soc.soton.ac.uk), and for other aspects the Programme Co-ordinator (Dr. Catrin Yeomans, tel: 01793-442504, e-mail: cvy@nerc.ac.uk).