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Climate Change and Atmospheric Research

Value $500,000 to $1 million per year for up to five years
Application Deadline The program is now closed
How to Apply NSERC is no longer receiving new applications for this program.
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Funded Projects


The health and safety of Canadians and the strength of the Canadian economy rely on advancing our understanding of climate and the risks related to climate change, and on the development of effective policies that will allow us to anticipate and respond to these risks in a timely manner. Climate Change and Atmospheric Research (CCAR) Grants will capitalize on Canada’s world-class research capacity in key areas of climate and atmospheric research and innovation. Research will generate knowledge of the physical, chemical and biogeochemical processes related to the climate and atmospheric system and enable application of this knowledge toward understanding and predicting weather and climate. This research forms the basis for conducting further studies and assessments of the social, economic and ecological impacts of climate change and for developing strategies and adaptation mechanisms. The knowledge generated will provide the foundation for measures that save money and improve the lives of Canadians.

The CCAR initiative addresses both national research priorities and global challenges, including those associated with the This link will take you to another Web site Belmont Challenge Freshwater Security and Coastal Zone Vulnerability Initiatives by supporting a number of large, integrative projects involving university researchers and Canadian government scientists, along with other partners and international researchers. This initiative will encourage the training of students and other highly qualified personnel in these fields.


The CCAR initiative will support a limited number of large-scale research projects that are considered to be of high priority by both the Canadian academic research community and federal government departments. These projects will be led by world-class Canadian researchers and will comprise teams of university-based researchers and Canadian government scientists, along with international researchers and other partners (such as northern communities and/or the private sector). Their goal will be to generate substantial research results and transfer this knowledge for the benefit of Canada.

Funded projects must address major challenges in three theme areas: 1) Earth system processes and their representation in models; 2) Earth system prediction through improved forecasting methodologies; and 3) understanding recent changes in the Arctic and other Canadian cold region environments.

Note: The Earth system encompasses the atmosphere and its chemical composition; the oceans, including sea-ice; and the land surface, including surface hydrology, wetlands, lakes and vegetation. The proposed research initiatives are expected to lead to a better understanding and prediction of changes within the Earth system with a focus on the physical, chemical and biogeochemical processes, on time scales which range from minutes to decades. On short time scales it can include weather phenomena that result in the interaction of one or more components, such as the relationship between storms and coastal storm surges. On longer time scales, it can include climate change and climate variability on multi-decadal scales and changes in biogeochemical cycles (such as the carbon and nitrogen cycles).

The three research themes are:

1) Understanding Earth system processes and their representation in weather, climate and atmospheric chemistry models – Interactions among the Earth system components involve complex physical and chemical/biogeochemical processes. An example is the carbon cycle, where carbon and other biogenic trace gases are exchanged among the different reservoirs and drive changes in temperature through the greenhouse effect. Another example is the hydrological cycle where water is exchanged or stored as liquid, vapour and solid in the atmosphere, land surface and cryosphere; impacting weather, climate, freshwater supply and sea ice distribution. A third example is the role of clouds and aerosols on the radiation balance and precipitation formation, impacting weather, climate and air quality. A better understanding of these processes through observational and modelling studies is needed, and improving their representation or “parameterization” in regional and global weather, climate and atmospheric chemistry models. These models are the most complete and sophisticated tools available to better understand the Earth system.

2) Advancing weather, climate and environmental prediction – Weather, climate and environmental prediction range from time scales of minutes to days and seasons to decades, and space scales range from regional to global. A data assimilation and ensemble methodology, where multiple runs of numerical models are used with an optimal combination of observational data and model output, underlies the framework to quantify and reduce predictive uncertainty. Assimilation in global and regional models of meteorological, oceanographic, land-surface, and hydrological data from different sources, including radars and satellites, is an important prediction methodology. Other methodologies include ensemble forecast methods, computational method improvements, development of robust forecast verification measures, post-processing techniques to reduce model bias, methods to quantify predictive uncertainty, and inverse modelling to infer tracer sources and sinks. Advances in this theme would lead to improved prediction capability by weather, climate, hydrological and atmospheric chemistry models on different time and space scales. Examples include sub-seasonal and seasonal forecasts, high-impact weather, high-resolution prediction in urban environments, and regional climate projection and prediction.

3) Understanding recent changes in the Arctic and cold region environments – The Arctic and adjacent cold regions environments are the regions on Earth where recent changes are occurring the most rapidly. Over the past 20 years, Arctic temperatures have increased almost twice as fast as the global average. Other changes include shrinking sea ice, melting permafrost and glaciers, earlier and greater local stream flow. These changes lead to the release of pollutants previously trapped in, or under, the ice; while economic development brings the potential for increased pollution in this environment. These rapid changes not only impact people, infrastructure and ecosystems, but also influence weather, atmospheric composition, and climate globally. For example, thawing permafrost could release large quantities of carbon dioxide and methane, enhancing Earth’s greenhouse effect and global warming; and air pollution from enhanced shipping could lead to health and climate issues. Compared to warm climates, our understanding of physical and chemical/biogeochemical processes in cold climates is relatively weak. This is partly due to the difficult working environment and higher cost of research in remote regions. There is a need for an improved understanding of processes particular to cold region climates, and the feedback mechanisms involved in the amplification of climate change and the concentration of pollutants at high latitudes. Advances from this theme would enhance our understanding of recent changes in the Arctic and cold region environments, and better position Canada to preserve and enhance the quality of the natural environment and to adapt to environmental change.

Through this call, NSERC plans to award grants at a funding level of between $500,000 and $1 million per year for up to five years.

CCAR Grants are expected to:

  • facilitate collaborative research between university researchers and Canadian government scientists, with the inclusion of other potential partners (such as northern communities and/or the private sector) and international researchers (including the Belmont Challenge Freshwater Security and Coastal Zone Vulnerability Initiatives) as appropriate;
  • produce valuable results and knowledge that can be transferred and disseminated to federal departments and other end-users in order to maximize the impact for the benefit of Canadians;
  • further strengthen Canada’s leadership role and capacity in these areas;
  • build synergies with, but not duplicate, existing funding initiatives; and
  • build on existing scientific knowledge and ensure that metadata results are available to, and compatible with, existing data-archiving platforms.


In addition to the general NSERC eligibility criteria, proposals must demonstrate active research participation of scientists from at least one federal government department.

Application Procedures

CCAR applications will be evaluated using a two-stage process. Initially, applicants must submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) that will be evaluated by an LOI Review Committee. Successful LOIs will be invited to submit a proposal and will be given further instructions regarding submission details and a logistics plan. The proposals will be evaluated by a Proposal Review Committee.

For the LOIs, applicants must submit a six-page document (using 8.5 x 11 paper, in free-form text format), that includes:

  • a description of the main research challenges and activities, and how they address one or more of the three research themes, along with the anticipated budget;
  • a discussion of the anticipated collaboration that includes the participation of federal government scientists along with international researchers and other partners, as appropriate. Local community involvement must be discussed where appropriate;
  • a discussion of the anticipated research outcomes—how the research results will be delivered, and how the knowledge will be transferred to federal government departments and/or other potential end-users;
  • summary biographies of the three to four principal investigators and their areas of expertise; and
  • summary biographies of up to three principal government or other partners (including foreign), including their areas of expertise.

In addition to the above six pages, the LOI package must contain a one-page letter from each appropriate federal departmental office (normally to be signed at the Director General [DG] or Assistant Deputy Minister [ADM] level) or partner organization (signed by an authorizing manager) confirming their interest in, and commitments to, the project.

Review Procedures and Selection Criteria

Letters of Intent

NSERC will assess the LOIs and proposals on the basis of the criteria below. Only applicants who have submitted successful LOIs will be allowed to submit proposals and further details on the submission process will be made available at that time.

Note: The LOIs must contain sufficient information for the LOI Review Committee to determine if the proposed work addresses one or more of the three theme areas and the ability of the proposal to deliver research results and undertake knowledge transfer to federal government departments and/or other potential end-users.

Merit of the proposal:

  • Significance of the research question and the extent to which the proposed research addresses the priorities as expressed in one or more of the outlined research themes;
  • Involvement of federal government researchers, foreign researchers and/or other partners;
  • Feasibility of achieving the proposed objectives within the funding timeframe;
  • Integration between academic and government researchers;
  • Ability to deliver research results and undertake knowledge transfer of these results to federal government departments and/or other potential end-users; and
  • Proposed strength of the project budgetary, administrative and data management infrastructure.

Excellence of the applicants: 

  • Excellence of the principal investigator;
  • Excellence and significance of the proposed research team;
  • Involvement and integration of Canadian federal government scientists and researchers; and
  • Involvement and integration of other partner and/or foreign researchers.

Potential for Training Highly Qualified Personnel:

  • Potential training opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral-level individuals, and other research personnel such as undergraduates, research associates and technicians.

In addition, the full proposal document package must contain a one- to two-page letter from each appropriate federal department office (normally to be signed at the ADM or DG level) or partner organization (signed by an authorizing manager) confirming their commitment to any government or other resources required for the duration of the project.

Use of Funds

Funding is for Canadian university research and training programs. Government and international researchers, and other partners or collaborators are expected to obtain the required resources to support their involvement in the projects. Refer to the Use of Grant Funds section of the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide for details on eligible expenses.


The reporting format, schedules and additional information requirements will be available at the time of award.

Selection Committee

The list of the selection committee members is available.


Dave Bowen
Climate Change and Atmospheric Research
350 Albert Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1H5

Tel.: 613-992-1482