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NCAS was created by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in 2002 to provide NERC and the UK academic and government research communities with national capability in Atmospheric Science. This includes the provision of services and major facilities, plus a coordinated research programme which is responsive to NERC needs.

Initially NCAS was called the Natural Environment Research Council Centres for Atmospheric Science, reflecting the historical beginnings as a number of separate NERC centres and programmes. Before NCAS was created, NERC supported these atmospheric science centres:

    • The Centre for Global Atmospheric Modelling (CGAM) - focusing on climate science;
    • The Universities Weather Research Network (UWERN) - focusing on the science of weather;
    • The Atmospheric Chemistry Modelling Support Unit (ACMSU) - focusing on global atmospheric composition;
    • The Universities' Facilities for Atmospheric Measurement (UFAM) - providing ground-based facilities for atmospheric observations;
    • The British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC) - providing data services.

At the time of NCAS' creation, NERC recognised the urgent and enduring need for coordinated research in atmospheric composition. Additionally, at about the same time, NERC and the UK Met Office undertook to create a shared airborne atmospheric research facility. These developments led to the inclusion of two further units within NCAS:

    • The Distributed Institute for Atmospheric Composition (DIAC) - focusing on the composition of the atmosphere;
    • The Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM).

A change of name

In April 2006, NCAS was renamed as the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, to reflect its national capability role and to emphasise that whilst being highly geographically distributed, NCAS operates as a single coordinated centre. In parallel with the renaming, NCAS was reorganised along clear research-discipline lines. The research programmes of NCAS were brought together under three Science Directorates: NCAS-Climate, NCAS-Weather and NCAS-Composition, each with a full-time director. A fourth facility was created to support modelling and high performance computing. The new NCAS structure took on the following form:

    • NCAS-Climate - climate science, including evolution of the global atmospheric composition;
    • NCAS-Weather - all aspects of small space or time scale atmospheric physical processes;
    • NCAS-Composition - fundamental understanding, observation and prediction of atmospheric composition, including air quality;
    • The Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM);
    • The Universities' Facilities for Atmospheric Measurement (UFAM) - providing ground-based facilities for atmospheric observations;
    • The British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC) - providing data services;
    • Computational Modelling Services (CMS) - providing modelling and high performance computing support.