Met Éireann to use supercomputers to better understand Atlantic weather system

Forecasters teaming up with Irish Centre for High-End Computing for investigation

Met Éireann and the Irish Centre for High-End Computing based in NUI Galway are to investigate how to improve understanding of the North Atlantic Ocean-Atmosphere System, which has a major impact on the Earth's climate – and on Ireland.

The system is a complex interaction between the ocean and atmosphere above it, which modulates Earth’s climate by absorbing, releasing and transporting heat all over the planet.

They aim to improve simulation of how the system is behaving, to evaluate what drives changing patterns and to predict with more accuracy likely impact on Ireland.

This will be done through processing vast amounts of data using computer modelling provided by the EC-Earth’s system model, which uses an ensemble of high-powered supercomputers.


It is an essential tool for understanding and predicting climate variability and climate change built by an international consortium in which Met Éireann, ICHEC and University College Dublin are core partners. The four-year project will also produce high-resolution simulations of Ireland's future climate.

As Ireland's climate was dominated by the influence of the North Atlantic, "It is therefore of strategic importance to build national climate modelling capability in this area," said Met Éireann's head of research Dr Saji Varghese.

With implementation of the Government’s climate action plan, “specific localised climate information will be required to inform climate-sensitive decision making. This project will ensure that this climate information is produced using state-of-the-art Earth system modelling and science,” he added.

Increased accuracy

Project lead at ICHEC Dr Paul Nolan said the resulting simulations would provide sharper and more accurate projections of the future global climate and lead to a better understanding, not only of the physical climate system, but also of the climate impact on societies.

“The project will inform national climate change policy by providing enhanced climate projections for Ireland under a range of emission scenarios,” he added.

A recent report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasised the need “to take immediate and ambitious actions to secure our future”. To support this international effort, Met Éireann said it was working with its partners, to enhance its climate information “to assist climate-sensitive decision making” by understanding Ireland’s future climate and, in particular, factors driving change.

Global climate simulations using EC-Earth3 contributed to the landmark IPCC report published last August – the ICHEC also contributed to this work. The consortium recently began development of the next version of the model, EC-Earth4, which will be used to inform the next IPCC global assessment report, AR7.

The Irish researchers will contribute to this by improving the model’s representation of the North Atlantic Ocean-Atmosphere System.

They will also generate high-resolution simulations of Ireland’s future climate using EC-Earth4 combined with a range of regional climate models. This will enable researchers to study the impact of improved modelling of the North Atlantic on the country’s future climate projections.

These simulations will also inform updates to the Translate project, a two-year Met Éireann project currently underway to standardise future climate information for Ireland.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times