Project overview


Icebergs ©

The Rapid Climate Change (RAPID) programme aims to investigate and understand the causes of rapid climate change, with a main (but not exclusive) focus on the role of the Atlantic Ocean thermohaline circulation.

With a strong international focus, the programme will study historic changes from ice cores, lake sediments, corals and caves. The information will be compared with an extensive programme of observations in the North Atlantic and Arctic. Atmospheric and oceanic models will be used to simulate previous changes in climate and provide predictions of future change.

The main aims include

  • Improving our understanding of the role of thermohaline circulation and other processes in rapid climate change events
  • Predicting the global and regional impacts of rapid climate change

This will be achieved by

  • Making detailed measurements of the present thermohaline circulation and related processes
  • Reconstructing past changes using palaeo data
  • Assessing the effects of change on the atmosphere, ocean circulation, ice sheets and land
  • Testing and improving local and global scale models, using palaeo and present day observations

RAPID will run over a six year period, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. The programme will bring together the diverse research communities that have the skills to address the problem. As a result, our ability to monitor and predict future rapid climate change, particularly in the North Atlantic region, will be improved.


The RAPID: Will the Atlantic Thermohaline Circulation Halt? (RAPID-WATCH) programme is a continuation of RAPID, and aims to deliver a decade-long (2004-2014) time series of observations of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC). The observations will be used with data from other sources

  • to determine and interpret recent changes in the Atlantic MOC,
  • to assess the risk of rapid climate change due to changes in the MOC, and
  • to investigate the potential for predicting the MOC and its impacts on climate.

This work will be carried out in collaboration with the Hadley Centre in the UK, and through international partnerships.

RAPID Data Centre (RDC)

The RAPID Data Centre (RDC) is responsible for the management of data and model output resulting from projects within the RAPID and RAPID-WATCH programmes. The RDC comprises the NERC designated data centres for atmospheric and oceanographic data. These are the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC) and British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC).

These web pages provide access to information about the status of RAPID and RAPID-WATCH data, i.e. data expected, received and available, for each project.

Rapid Climate Change