ERC starting grant for turbulence research: 1.9 million euros in funding for meteorologist


Credit: Cedrick Ansorge 2019, CC-BY

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded a Starting Grant to Dr Cedrick Ansorge at the University of Cologne’s Institute of Geophysics and Meteorology. His project, Turbulence-Resolving Approaches to the Intermittently Turbulent Atmospheric Boundary Layer (trainABL), will receive a total of 1.87 million euros in funding over a period of five years, and will focus on atmospheric turbulence.

Turbulence is caused by wind shear and buoyancy in the atmosphere. Turbulence regulates the exchanges of heat, humidity and pollutants between ground layers and the upper atmosphere. ‘So far, we have assumed that turbulence is always present, everywhere,’ the meteorologist said. ‘Models of the atmospheric boundary layer are based on this assumption. But if there can be layers and times without turbulence, our basic assumption is inadequate.’

The temporally and spatially limited absence of turbulence, so-called intermittency, puts the scientific concept and understanding of the atmospheric boundary layer to the test and causes problems in prediction, Ansorge remarked. Such intermittency occurs, for example, in so-called stable air density layers, also known as atmospheric inversion.

In his ERC-funded project, Ansorge will work with methods such as direct numerical simulation, current simulations and observational data. His goal is to elucidate the phenomenon of intermittence. ‘If we understand intermittence, we will be able to use it for better weather forecasts in the future – and thus for road safety, agriculture or the generation of wind energy,’ he said.

The meteorologist believes that the insufficient understanding of the processes involved in the emergence and disappearance of turbulence in the atmospheric boundary layer has far-reaching consequences for predicting the lowest temperatures. This, in turn, has a direct impact on forecasting frost, fog and wind. Energy meteorology, the calculation of wind conditions for the production of wind power, would particularly benefit from improved predictions. Professor Yaping Shao, who heads Ansorge’s working group at the Institute of Geophysics and Meteorology, supported him his proposal.

Four hundred and eight early-career researchers were awarded European Research Council grants in this year’s first completed ERC call for proposals. The highly coveted funding will help individual scientists and scholars to build their own teams and conduct pioneering research across all disciplines. The grants, worth 603 million euros in total, are part of the EU’s Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

The President of the European Research Council (ERC), Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, commented: ‘It is essential that, for its future successful development, the European Union keeps attracting and supporting outstanding researchers from around the world. At the ERC we are proud to contribute to this goal by supporting some of the most daring creative scientific talent.’


Media Contact
Cedrick Ansorge
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