The National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) is a world-leading research centre dedicated to the advancement of atmospheric science. We carry out research in three themes which address specific societal needs.


Air Pollution

From city-scale monitoring and local actions, to future emissions and global impacts

Human exposure to air pollution is a significant global environmental burden. Improving air quality and reducing its impacts on people and economic development requires knowledge of chemical emissions, their transport over a range of space scales, their reactions and environmental fate.

Research Questions:

  • What are the real world emissions from current key pollution sources and how might they change into the future?
  • How can we use measurements and models to predict human exposure and evaluate how policies and new technologies may affect this?
  • How will climate change impact on air pollution and human exposure?

Our four key areas of research address: 1) emissions, 2) urban scale air pollution, 3) supporting health effects studies, and 4) interactions and feedbacks. 


Climate and High-Impact Weather

From heat waves and extreme winds, to droughts and heavy rain

High impact weather events are events of exceptional intensity or duration, usually with high socio-economic impacts. Society needs improved early warnings, risk assessments and further knowledge on the impact of climate change, in order to mitigate the risks of high-impact weather.

Research Questions:

  • What processes are key to the development of high-impact weather, and how predictable are these events?
  • How is climate change affecting high-impact weather now, and how will it in the future?
  • How can we exploit observational and modelling capabilities to understand the key processes and improve predictions and risk assessments?

Our four main research areas focus on: 1) convective storms, 2) cyclonic storms, 3) cold spells, heatwaves and droughts, and 4) large-scale modes of variability


Long-term Global Change

From aerosols, clouds and atmospheric circulation, to ozone recovery and global warming

Human activities are now the major driver of changes in global atmospheric composition and its interactions with Earth’s climate. Society needs scientific evidence to inform adaptation and mitigation policies that respond to this unprecedented global challenge.

Research Questions:

  • How are atmospheric composition and climate changing, and how will they change in the future?
  • How will long-term changes in gases and aerosols affect global weather, climate and air quality?
  • How can we improve our models of the Earth System to provide more robust predictions?

Our three priority research activities are: 1) climate projections, 2) changes in atmospheric composition, and 3) changes in aerosols and clouds

The NCAS vision is to be a world-leading centre for atmospheric science research.

The mission of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science is to pursue and support internationally leading research and to advance the application of atmospheric science for the benefit of society.
NCAS will:
•    undertake and lead strategic and directed research;
•    provide facilities and education to support atmospheric and wider environmental science;
•    apply expertise and exploit facilities to support business and government;
•    provide NERC with national capability, advice and leadership in atmospheric science.

Management Board
NCAS Executive Director: Professor Stephen Mobbs (based at University of Leeds)
Director of Science (Chemistry): Professor Ally Lewis (based at University of York)
Director of Science (Physics): Professor Geraint Vaughan (based at University of Manchester)
Director of Science (Climate): Professor Rowan Sutton (based at University of Reading)
Director of Science and Staff: Professor Lesley Gray (based at University of Oxford)

Science Themes
Air Pollution Theme Leader: Dr Sarah Moller (based at University of York)
Climate and High-Impact Weather Leader: Professor Len Shaffrey (based at University of Reading)
Long-Term Global Change Leader: Dr Till Kuhlbrodt (based at University of Reading)

Services and Facilities
Head of the Centre for Environmental Data Analysis: Dr Victoria Bennett
Head of Computer Modelling Services: Dr Grenville Lister
Head of the Atmospheric Measurement Facility: Dr Barbara Brooks
Head of the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements: Mr Alan Woolley
Head of NFARR: Dr Chris Walden (Head of CFARR) & Dr David Hooper (Head of MSTRF)
Models and Data: Professor Bryan Lawrence
Observational Facilities: Professor Geraint Vaughan
Head of EISCAT UK Support: Dr Ian McCrea

 

The National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) is a world leading research centre dedicated to the advancement of atmospheric science, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

With an annual budget of £15M NCAS carries out research in air pollution, climate and high-impact weather, and long-term global changes in atmospheric composition and climate, and provides the UK community with state-of-the-art technologies for observing and modelling the atmosphere. These include a research aircraft, advanced ground-based observational facilities, computer modelling and support, and facilities for storing and analysing data. We play a significant and influential role in many international science programmes and provide the UK with advice, leadership and national capability in atmospheric science.

NCAS is organised around three science themes and five underpinning services and facilities, with over 200 members of staff embedded in 12 UK universities and research institutes including: University of York, University of Leeds, University of Manchester, University of Cambridge, University of Reading, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, University of Birmingham, University of East Anglia, University of Oxford, University of Hertfordshire, University of Surrey and Cranfield University. 


Read more about the History of NCAS

We provide the UK science community with state-of-the-art technologies for observing and modelling the atmosphere.

The infrastructure we can offer researchers includes a research aircraft, advanced ground-based observational facilities, computer modelling and support, and facilities for storing and analysing data.

The Atmospheric Measurement Facility (AMF)
The Atmospheric Measurement Facility provides quality controlled data products from state-of-the-art mobile instrumentation, atmospheric observatories and laboratories.

The Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM)
The Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements is a world-class research facility dedicated to the advancement of atmospheric science.

NERC Facility for Atmospheric Radar Research (NFARR)
The NERC Facility for Atmospheric Radar Research provides infrastructure and expertise that underpins atmospheric radar capability across the UK.

Computational Modelling Services (CMS)
Computational Modelling Services provides modelling support and infrastructure to enable numerical simulations in climate, weather and earth-system research.

Centre for Environmental Data Analysis (CEDA)
The Centre for Environmental Data Analysis provides data storage and analysis capabilities for the environmental research community. 

The invention of atmospheric science

At the outset of the twenty-first century, the remit of atmospheric science would have been beyond the imagination of the early pioneers of the subject. Investigations into the atmosphere began long before the term ‘atmospheric science’ was coined in the 1950s. What started as a meteorological enterprise, focussed largely on surface weather conditions, was transformed under the development of new technologies and observational capabilities.

Atmospheric science was buoyed by the invention of the supercomputer in the 1950s, opening the door for mathematical simulations of the atmosphere, and by 1967 the first computer model of the earth’s climate was produced. Atmospheric science depended on cross-disciplinary collaborations, and could combine aspects of mathematics, chemistry, physics and meteorology. Inevitably, as research capabilities started to improve so too did the complexity of the task facing scientists. By the 1990s the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council were funding several large thematic programmes into various strands of atmospheric science.

In the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) 1997 Portfolio Planning Exercise, UK atmospheric science was identified as being ‘at a very high level internationally.’ However, the UK government supported atmospheric science through a set of individual centres and programmes dispersed across the country at various universities and faculties, which offered little long-term security to the atmospheric research community, and made it difficult for scientists to collaborate or share resources.

Securing the long-term health of UK atmospheric science

The NERC Atmospheric Science and Technology Board, who were responsible for developing funding strategy, proposed a significant restructuring exercise in the early twenty-first century. The board was composed of members of the atmospheric science community and chaired by Mike Pilling. This was an influential group of individuals at the forefront of relatively young scientific discipline, who felt responsible for securing the long-term health of UK atmospheric science.

In 2001, the NERC Atmospheric Science and Technology Board put forward a proposal to create a new centre for atmospheric science. Board members argued that an umbrella institution could provide long-term stability for atmospheric science by coordinating not only research, but facilities too. The organisation would “refocus existing resources” and serve to facilitate links between the different strands of atmospheric science: climate processes, air composition, and weather. The centre for atmospheric science would also manage the observational and data facilities required by the atmospheric science community.

Creating a national centre

The new National Centre for Atmospheric Science would sit above both the observational and data management facilities, providing support and coordination. There was a management group composed of the directors and heads of the centres and facilities, chaired by the director of NCAS. There was also a steering committee, including independent atmospheric science experts and key stakeholders, which was responsible for guiding and reviewing the development of NCAS.

Over time, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science has increased its visibility and reputation within the global science community. NCAS has formed key research partnerships in the UK, including with the Meteorological Office and the Environment Agency, undertaken independent reviews for BBC weather forecasting, and emissions monitoring for oil company Total.

Across the globe, NCAS has formed strong links with leading organisations. NCAS is closely tied to the U.S National Centre for Atmospheric Research, especially in regards to climate models. In Africa, NCAS is involved with pioneering weather research, bringing together researchers from universities and meteorological institutions in Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal. In Europe, NCAS has links with a variety of atmospheric research centres and was responsible for leading the scientific investigation into the Icelandic Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption, a major global incident. In 2018, The International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) invited five climate experts from NCAS and NCAS-funded projects to participate in their sixth assessment report, which helps to update and inform the Paris Agreement.

Subcategories

NCAS, via its Centres, Institutes and Affiliated Universities, organises and contributes to a wide range of meetings and events concerned with atmospheric science, throughout the UK.

By holding regular meetings and events, NCAS engages on a regular basis with its key stakeholders: the academic community; operational agencies, namely the Met Office and the Environment Agency; and various Government departments; the Research Councils; the general public; the media; and commercial organisations.

Our scientists are experts in the field of atmospheric science and we specialise in targeted research that answers real-world problems. NCAS works in partnership with many organisations to provide pioneering applications of our research. Our cross cutting research expertise, world leading facilities and dedication to excellence allows our scientists to work within partnerships that apply world class science to real world problems.

Below are a selection of case studies which highlight some of the collaborative work that NCAS is involved in. If you are interested in collaborating with NCAS please contact us by e-mail - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

NCAS have working relationships with a range of organisations, the list below gives an idea of some of these collaborations, partnerships and project partners.

 National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), USA  Met Office (UK)
 Hydro-Logic Ltd  National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), USA
 Icelandic Meteorological Service  NOAA Chemical Services Division, USA
 Halcrow Ltd  Civil Aviation Authority
 University of Malaysia  Rolls Royce
 Willis  Raytheon
 University of Massachusetts  Members of the Natural Hazard Partnership
 ECMWF  ECRA
 SELEX