Understanding climate
for the benefit of society

Strategic Projects

Projects under SKD - Centre for Climate Dynamics

The Bjerknes Centre has five strategic projects running from 2018 through 2021.

More than half of the funding from the Ministry of Education is used for strategic independent research projects. These act as agents which brings researchers from all partners together on joint activities, which in turn leads to new ideas and methods, as well as the results are being published in high-profile journals.

For the period 2018-2021, five strategic projects have been selected:

  • AOIP – Atmosphere-Ocean-Ice interactions in Polar and subpolar regions
  • CHEX – Climate Hazards and EXtremes
  • EMULATE – Enhancing Mechanistic Understanding of mid-latitude Large-scale circulation Errors
  • LOES: LOw Emission and overshoot Scenarios – from a high to a low carbon society
  • RISES – Quantifying and understanding Rates of Ice Sheet changes


The main goal of AOIP is to improve our understanding of atmosphere-ocean-ice interaction processes, as well as our ability to model them and their impact. The underlying goal is to assess the need for these processes to be correctly simulated in the Norwegian Earth System Model (NorESM), to help defining the path for its future development, and to thus to help establish it as one of the reference tools to explore the climate in polar and sub-polar regions.

AOIP focuses on selected processes that are known or suspected to be important in shaping the polar and subpolar atmosphere-ocean-ice system, both through local interactions and large-scale effects.
To this end we divide the project roughly along the lines of different scales, considering local processes in work package 1, mesoscale processes in work package 2, and basin-scale processes in work package 3.

Project leader: Einar Olason (NERSC)

Partners: UiB, NERSC, IMR, NORCE


With this new, inter-disciplinary project our main objective is:

To provide policy-relevant information through improved projections of climate hazards and extremes, by integrating long-term time series from proxy records with numerical model output and Earth observation data.

Climate hazards is a theme of growing importance, and it draws interest not only from the science community but also from policy-makers, industrial and financial actors, and local governments. We propose to bring together the BCCR’s expertise on climate-related geohazards, sea-level change, and extreme weather events, to conduct innovative research. We envision this synergetic project as an important conduit for the new BCCR Research Theme on climate hazards.

The backbone of any impact and risk modelling approach is an in-depth knowledge of today’s climate and its historical variability on relevant timescales. For some climate hazards, and in some geographical regions, coarse-scale re-analyses, observational climatologies, or proxy data may be the only sources of information. Furthermore, studying extreme events usually requires assumptions of stationarity, as well as extrapolation of short time series. Thus, analyses of climatic hazards might involve different approaches depending on the available information.

Project leader: Erik W. Kolstad (NORCE)

Partners: UiB, NERSC, NORCE


The projected response of the atmospheric circulation to climate change caused by increasing emissions of greenhouse gases is currently highly uncertain. One of the primary reasons for this uncertainty is that the state-of-the-art models we employ to investigate these responses struggle to represent important features of the midlatitude circulation such as: storm tracks, jets and blocking. Though the scientific community has exhaustively diagnosed the existence of these biases our understanding of their causes remains limited.

The primary goal of EMULATE is to improve our physical understanding of these critical circulation features as well as the drivers and implications of their biases. The investigation covers the entire Northern Hemisphere but special attention is reserved for the critical North Atlantic/European sector. A number of objectives are envisioned as we work towards our goal:

Through a more detailed investigation of existing climate model archives build new storylines elucidating why some models do/do not reproduce critical features of the midlatitude circulation; Develop a more nuanced understanding of the physical drivers of atmospheric circulation biases, the relative contributions of these drivers and their implications for other features of atmospheric variability; Investigate the role that features in the tropics, and their representation, can play in driving or modulating midlatitude circulation biases; Explore the impacts of circulation biases on the representation of extreme events, and said events sensitivity to large-scale biases, with a focus on the European sector;Investigate links between circulation biases and regional ocean circulation and heat transport with a particular focus on the Nordic seas.

Project leader: Stefan Sobolowski (NORCE), Erica Madonna (UiB)

Partners: UiB, NERSC, IMR, NORCE


Since economic, technological and societal considerations constrain the range of feasible CO2 emission reductions, ambitious mitigation scenarios commonly rely on “negative emissions”. That is, net emissions to the atmosphere are assumed to become negative at some point in time within this century, and atmospheric CO2 concentrations, radiative forcing, and temperature “overshoot” a given target (e.g. 2°C) temporarily.

LOES will contribute to closing critical gaps in our understanding of the Earth system under low and overshoot emission futures, and thus support the transformation from high to low-carbon societies. We will achieve this goal by investigating key impacts on terrestrial and marine ecosystems under low (strong mitigation), and overshoot emission pathways (including multiple mitigation targets and potential tipping points), better constraining carbon cycle feedbacks and uncertainties related to irreversible processes under low and overshoot scenarios to reduce uncertainties in allowable carbon emissions, and assessing the feasibility and efficiency of proposed mitigation options (particularly reforestation).

The land and ocean biospheres are both being modified by humans at accelerating rates in addition to the impacts of climate change. It is, thus, crucial to give a best estimate of the future of terrestrial and marine ecosystems under impacts from multiple stressors.

Project leader: Jörg Schwinger (UNI), Hanna Lee (UNI)

Partners: UiB, IMR, NORCE


Ice sheets are an essential and vulnerable component of the climate system. They respond to climate forcing through interaction with the atmosphere and ocean, often modulated by basal hydrology and topography. In turn, ice sheets affect atmospheric circulation through changes in surface topography and albedo, and ocean circulation through meltwater runoff.

Fluctuations in ice sheet volume directly impact global and local sea levels. Ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is rapidly increasing. Yet, predictions of future contribution of ice sheets to sea level rise are uncertain as we still have an insufficient understanding of the processes that determine short- and long-term rates of ice sheet disintegration.

With RISES we will specifically address the effect of atmospheric blocking patterns and (related) changes in basal drainage system below the ice on the mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet. We will also study the retreat of the Scandinavian Ice Sheet during the last deglaciation, and use this knowledge as an analogue for likely future retreat of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Project leader: Petra Langebroek (NORCE), Anna Hughes (UiB)

Partners: UiB, NERSC, NORCE