Facilities and expertise

Field research

We have been leading and contributing to field research for many years across the globe, from the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica to the tropical forests of Borneo.

Our observational campaigns have included ground sites as well as on board research ships and aircraft, making measurements of atmospheric properties and also concentrations of key constituents. Field research by its nature is hugely collaborative and we have worked with very many research organisations and agencies both in the UK and across the globe. You can view over 100 field campaigns on Google Maps.

Our fieldwork goes on to inform the modelling community how models are performing through both direct comparison with atmospheric simulations as well as being used to constrain models with observations so they can better represent the real world. Likewise the teams in ICAS who work with these models often define the objectives of observational campaigns. They look to where we can improve our understanding of atmospheric processes through more detailed measurements and also exactly whereabouts we need to gather data from.

In addition to those involved in the observations we actively encourage students and staff who will be involved in the data analysis and modelling studies to participate in the data collection phase. We find that this provides these people greater insight into the greater science story that the project is addressing. In addition there is considerable value through instilling a feeling of ‘ownership’ with the data they are working with.

We also use field observations to test our theories, one such hypothesis was the effect of the soil moisture anomaly on the processes controlling convection in west Africa. Through a combination of satellite analyses and field observations, we were able to confirm this. Our fieldwork goes onto identify and stimulate further observational studies, an example being the Arctic Summer Cloud-Ocean Study (ASCOS) project in summer 2008 led Professor Ian Brooks to lead a major NERC consortium study in Spring/summer 2013. The Aerosol-Cloud Coupling and Climate Interactions in the Arctic (ACCACIA) built upon the preliminary findings which revealed need to accurately represent boundary layer aerosol in order to properly reproduce cloud properties and the energy budget at the surface. This energy budget is critical as it determines the melting rate of the sea ice in, what is perhaps, the most climate sensitive region of the planet.