In late 2019, JPI Oceans and JPI Climate launched a joint call for research proposals exploring the key interactions between climate and the ocean. A total of four innovative research projects were awarded funding in January 2020. Among them was EUREC4A-OA (Improving the representation of small-scale nonlinear ocean-atmosphere interactions in Climate Models by innovative joint observing and modelling approaches), the Ocean-Atmosphere component of the EUREC4A project (Elucidating the role of clouds circulation coupling in climate).
On 20 January 2020, the EUREC4A research campaign commenced off the shores of the Caribbean island of Barbados. The campaign is supported by the World Climate Research Programme and benefits from the joint funding of several European countries through JPI Oceans and JPI Climate. The scientific leads of the campaign are Sandrine Bony from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Bjorn Stevens from the Max Planck Institute in Germany, in collaboration with David Farrell from the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology. Participating institutions are from Barbados, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The mission is expected to conclude on 20 February 2020.
During this one month of field work, specialised teams will gather a comprehensive dataset of upper oceanic and atmospheric dynamics, utilizing extensive and innovative observation technologies, including platforms such as aircrafts, research ships, buoys, underwater gliders and drones. The mission will focus on addressing ocean-atmosphere interactions by shedding light on the behaviour of low-level trade-wind cumulus clouds and their response to warming temperatures. The analysis of such dynamics represents an opportunity to reduce uncertainty around the rate and magnitude of future global warming. Insights on global warming will be necessary, in turn, to predict phenomena with high socioeconomic risk such as sea level rise and extreme weather with increasing accuracy.
The behaviour of trade-wind cumulus clouds goes hand in hand with the role the ocean plays as the main climate-regulating force, marking a strong interface between the ocean and atmospheric systems. At the ocean level, for instance, the Caribbean region is prone to the occurrence of small-scale eddies (smaller than 100 km in diameter). Researchers believe these have an important role in the gas and energy exchange between atmosphere and ocean, affecting temperatures and cloud density. However, these phenomena occurring at such small scales are still poorly understood and thus only poorly represented in numerical models. The EUREC4A mission will provide an unprecedented opportunity for an intense, large-scale study on these small-scale exchanges of heat and CO2 between the ocean and the atmosphere, helping to narrow down existing uncertainties around future global warming and its impacts on the climate and societies in vulnerable regions.