Photo with sky, clouds and sunset for SPARC highlight articleAtmospheric processes, including dynamics and chemistry, and their interactions play an important role in climate variability and change. SPARC provides intellectual leadership to address key issues in atmospheric dynamics and predictability, chemistry and climate, and long-term records for climate understanding. SPARC contributes significantly to international assessments such as the assessments of ozone depletion by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and UN Environment (UNEP), as well as the climate assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). SPARC thus provides cutting-edge knowledge of direct relevance to decision-makers.

Three SPARC themes infographics

As outlined in its 2016-2020 Implementation Plan, SPARC takes a “whole atmosphere” approach to its work, focused around three themes:

  • Atmospheric Dynamics and Predictability;
  • Chemistry and Climate; and
  • Long-term Records for Climate Understanding


Each theme has a series of research questions, which are addressed by one or more SPARC activities. There are currently 19 SPARC Activities that cover many aspects of atmospheric research (see Figure below). These are:

  • Atmospheric Composition and the Asian Summer Monsoon (ACAM)
  • Assessing predictability (SNAP)
  • CCM initiative (Chemistry-Climate Model Initiative, CCMI, jointly with IGAC)
  • Data assimilation
  • Dynamical variability (DynVar)
  • Fine-scale Processes (FISAPS)
  • Gravity waves
  • Ozone Trends (LOTUS)
  • Polar stratospheric clouds (PSC)
  • Quasi-biennial oscillation (QBOi)
  • Reanalysis intercomparison (S-RIP)
  • Solar influence (SOLARIS-HEPPA)
  • Stratospheric sulfur (SSiRC)
  • Atmospheric Temperature changes (ATC)
  • Water vapour (WAVAS II)

And also include four emerging activities:

  • Observed Composition Trends And Variability in the Upper Troposphere and Lower Stratosphere (CTAV-UTLS)
  • Stratospheric And Tropospheric Influences On Tropical Convective Systems (SATIO-TCS)
  • Climate Response to Short-lived Climate Forcers (SLCFs)
  • Towards Unified Error Reporting (TUNER)

    SPARC research questions infographics

SPARC Events

As part of its work SPARC coordinates and promotes meetings, workshops and conferences in order to encourage collaboration between researchers. A major upcoming event for SPARC will be the Sixth SPARC General Assembly, to be held in Kyoto, Japan, from 1-5 October 2018. The General Assembly will be an opportunity for SPARC to take stock of what has been achieved, determine gaps in SPARC's research portfolio, and to define SPARC’s future research priorities. More information can be found on the SPARC 2018 General Assembly website.

SPARC Products

Besides its work in international research coordination, SPARC is also well known for producing comprehensive peer-reviewed assessment reports. The most recent report is the SPARC Data Initiative - Assessment of stratospheric trace gas and aerosol climatologies from satellite limb sounders (SPARC Report No. 8), which was published earlier this year. Work is currently underway to produce a report on the SPARC Reanalysis Intercomparison Project (S-RIP) and on long-term ozone trends and uncertainties in the stratosphere (LOTUS). All SPARC assessment reports are available for download on the SPARC publications website.

SPARC also provides resources to enable the collection and archiving of data that are used for SPARC activities. The SPARC Data Centre was opened in June 1999 and is now hosted by the Centre for Environmental Data Archival (CEDA). The SPARC Data Centre provides a means for SPARC scientists to exchange and store their data and documentation as well as to disseminate their data and results to the broader scientific community.

Key products issued by the SPARC Office include the SPARC biannual newsletter, which is well cited in peer-reviewed publications - reflecting their high scientific quality and visibility. SPARC communicates regularly with the community through its eNews bulletins and social media channels (see below).

SPARC Capacity Development

Capacity development has been a focus of SPARC since its inception and is integral to the SPARC ethos. SPARC’s capacity development efforts are carried out in coordination within the context of the wider WCRP strategy and range from supporting participation in meetings and workshops to SPARC-focused training schools. The goal of these activities is to ensure that scientific knowledge, methodological skills, and modelling expertise are developed in atmospheric and climate sciences related to SPARC research. A dedicated SPARC capacity development strategy has been developed. For more information about SPARC capacity development activities make sure to sign-up for SPARC’s eNews bulletins and newsletters (see detailed links below).

25 Years of International SPARC Research

SPARC was founded in 1992, largely in response to concerns about the consequences of stratospheric ozone depletion. Since then, SPARC has evolved into a major international research coordination hub for atmospheric sciences. On 1 December 2017, SPARC celebrated its 25th anniversary and, after six years of operation in Zurich, the move of its international project office from ETH Zurich to the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen - its fourth destination after Paris, Toronto and Zurich. More information on the symposium can be found on the SPARC website.

SPARC Leadership

All scientists involved in SPARC initiatives work on a voluntary basis and often spend time and resources outside regular office hours on SPARC activities. The continuing success of SPARC relies on the essential contributions of this community, which today counts over 3000 scientists.

SPARC leadership is composed of experts from around the world who dedicate their time to SPARC's international activities. These include the SPARC Scientific Steering Group, who serve to guide SPARC's scientific focus, SPARC activity leaders, liaisons to the WCRP Joint Scientific Committee and the WCRP Joint Planning Staff Officer, as well as the International Project Office (SPARC Office) staff. As noted above, the SPARC Office will be moving in December 2017, with contact information for new office staff already listed on the website.

Great! SPARC sounds fantastic. How do I get involved?

There are many ways to get involved in SPARC. First, to hear about all the latest news and opportunities you can:

If you have a meeting that you would like to publicise or news to share, please contact the SPARC Office.

To get involved more actively in SPARC research or scientific leadership there are a number of opportunities. If you see a specific activity that you are interested in being involved in, you can contact the SPARC activity leaders through the activity links above. They always welcome participation, and this can take many different forms. If your area of research is not covered by the current list of SPARC activities, you may want to consider starting a new SPARC activity. To investigate this possibility please contact the SPARC Office. If you are an established researcher you can be nominated, or nominate yourself, to become a member of the SPARC Scientific Steering Group. The call for nominations usually closes at the end of September each year, so the next possible round will be in 2018.

If you are an early career researcher, then we recommend that you join the SPARC Group within the Young Earth System Science (YESS) community. SPARC offers many opportunities for early career researchers, so it is good to stay connected to SPARC developments in order to benefit from this. For example, to participate in the SPARC 2018 General Assembly, SPARC will offer financial sponsorship to early career researchers and scientists from developing countries. Also, if you want to improve your knowledge of atmospheric science, programming, and more, you can make use of resources listed on SPARC’s online learning resources page. If you are looking for a new position, you can also take a look at the SPARC vacancies page, which lists a wide range of atmospheric science opportunities, from PhDs to Professorships.

To learn even more about SPARC see the following links: