On 29 November 2012, the ‘Thermohaline Overturning – at Risk’ (THOR) project and the ‘Arctic Climate Change, Economy and Society’ (ACCESS) project presented their results at the Doha UN Climate Conference – on the invitation of the European Commission.
The SAMS physics department has been contributing to both projects.
THOR and ACCESS were two of the three projects funded by the EU’s 7th Framework Programme on researching climate change that were invited to present their findings as part of the European Commission event on Global and Regional Impacts of Polar Warming.
The THOR project team explored the dynamics of the Atlantic circulation and its impacts on the European climate. A good knowledge of the state of the circulation is a pre-requisite for reliable decadal climate forecasts.
The team employed ocean observations, reconstruction of palaeodata, and climate models to define the present state of the Atlantic circulation, explore its natural variability and predict its future development. The circulation had been stable during the past decades, but it reacts to external drivers such as increased carbon dioxide emissions, volcanism, or changes in solar intensity in just decades.
THOR developed new tools that allowed the scientists to score the various drivers and to feed the data into models to obtain increasingly accurate predictions of what will happen to the Atlantic circulation in the future.
While they identified a risk that something might happen to the circulation, the scientists were confident that the circulation will not collapse within the next decade. However, they suggest developing an early warning system and adaptation strategies.
The THOR research will now continue under a follow-up project called NACLIM.
THOR was coordinated by Professor Detlef Quadfasel of the University of Hamburg. The SAMS contribution was made by Dr Stuart Cunningham.
The ACCESS project has been evaluating climatic impacts in the Arctic on marine transportation (including tourism), fisheries, marine mammals and the extraction of hydrocarbons for the next 20 years.
Particular attention is being given to identifying and quantifying environmental sensitivities and sustainability to provide an integrated assessment of the socio-economic impact of climate change.
ACCESS is also focusing on Arctic governance and strategic policy options and is cooperating closely with indigenous peoples and other key stake holders.
The third project [the only one not with SAMS involvement] that presented its findings to the conference was the Arctic Tipping Points.