Funded by NERC, the SMURPHS research programme began in December 2014 and will run for 4 years. Nine research partners make up the SMURPHS consortium. These are the Universities of Leeds, Edinburgh, Exeter, East Anglia, Oxford, Reading and Southampton; and the British Antarctic Survey and the National Oceanography Centre.
Support is provided by five external partners, the UK Met Office, European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Max-Planck-Institut fűr Meteorologie (MPIM), Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (CICERO) and Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l’Environnement (LGGE).
Decadal variations in the rate of global surface warming – termed hiatus and surge events – are multifaceted. The goal of the research is to understand much more fully how all the contributing factors can explain past hiatus and surge (H/S) events, and so to help improve predictions of future climate change over the coming decades and far into the future.
The potential causes of H/S events includes: natural climate variability, due to complex interplay between the atmosphere, oceans and land; natural climate change due to volcanic eruptions or changes in the brightness of the sun; changes in how heat is moved into the deep oceans due to natural variations or human-caused factors; changes in emissions of gases such as methane due to human activity; limitations in the distribution of temperature observations, such that the hiatus is partly an artefact of imperfect observations. Rather than one single cause it is likely that H/S events are caused by a combination of factors.
SMURPHS has 3 broad objectives:
- Objective 1 is to build a basic framework for interpreting H/S events in terms of energy moving between the atmosphere and ocean and to determine characteristics of and similarities between H/S events.
- Objective 2 is to understand mechanisms that could trigger H/S events and extend their length, considering both human and natural factors.
- Objective 3 is to assess whether H/S events can be predicted and what information is needed for near-term prediction of climate over coming decades which is important for how societies adapt to change.