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Atmospheric Science & Global Change

Impacts, Responses and Applications

Developing effective responses to climate change and other environmental trends poses many scientific challenges. Our research staff lead and participate in a wide variety of projects that address these challenges, from improving our understanding of the impacts of climate change on different sectors to assessing vulnerabilities and potential adaptation options to supporting the development of renewable energy resources and other climate change mitigation strategies. Many of these activities leverage PNNL's unique position as a multi-program DOE Laboratory, with strong portfolios of applied research in energy and national security, including work for other federal agencies and non-federal entities. Some of our specific research thrusts in this area include:

  • Climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. PNNL researchers, including those at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, are combining stakeholder research methods, integrated assessment and sector-specific models, decision-oriented uncertainty characterization, and analysis of institutional, economic, and other factors to provide quality-controlled, usable information about the vulnerability of different systems, sectors, and regions to climate change, as well as analyzing different adaptation and mitigation options.
    Contact: Richard Moss
  • Climate mitigation. Responding to the challenges of climate change includes developing strategies and options to lessen the impact on the planet and populations. Our research combines both an integrated, global understanding of mitigation issues with detailed knowledge of specific countries and technologies. PNNL's research covers analysis of policies and implementation options relating to energy efficiency in buildings, cogeneration, and reductions of short-lived climate forcers, such as methane. For example, we analyze what makes building energy efficiency efforts successful; we test ideas through partnerships with research institutions, governments and local organizations in China, India, Russia and elsewhere. Regarding short-lived forcers, we assess black carbon and methane emissions and we are also working with local partners on reducing emissions through pilot projects and policy.
    Contact: Meredydd Evans
  • Carbon cycle and land system science. Human activities – including agriculture, forestry, and other land use changes, such as urbanization – strongly influence the Earth's land surface and carbon cycle. Using field observation research, biogeochemical models, and integrated modeling capabilities, our researchers focus on reducing the uncertainty surrounding land use and land cover change, and better understanding how future human activities and climate changes will affect the terrestrial and global carbon cycles.
    Contact: Maoyi Huang
  • Wind energy.The turbulent atmospheric boundary layer plays an important role in the atmospheric energy transfer that governs climate. It also is the part of the atmosphere that provides the fuel for wind energy. PNNL researchers are applying their expertise in measuring and modeling the atmospheric boundary layer to improve our quantitative understanding of winds and turbulence affecting the efficiencies, loads, and power variability of both individual turbines and wind plants.
    Contact: Will Shaw
  • National security. Environmental security degraded through climate changes and/or poor natural resource management is recognized as a threat multiplier for national security. PNNL scientists are working across energy, economic, policy, water, and food supply disciplines to address the intersection of climate and other human and environmental trends in the context of national and homeland security. The research application scales from regional to global in nature. For example, at the regional scale we are developing approaches to assess the vulnerability of military installations to climate change and how global trends may impact critical infrastructure. At the global scale we are developing metrics for assessing the vulnerability of nations to environmental stresses and the link to social conflicts.
    Contact: Ben Kravitz
  • Interdisciplinary applications. Our researchers bring extensive measurement and modeling expertise to bear on additional applications including low-level winds and fluid dynamics, dust and dispersion modeling, interfacial chemistry, and emergency response. Our scientists and engineers develop tools and technologies used by government agencies, regulators and private industry. We provide analysis and engineering solutions for monitoring the release of radiological and hazardous pollutants. Our staff is guiding software quality assurance standards development for all U.S. Department of Energy software and delivering improvements for software and systems cyber security.
    Contact: Will Shaw
  • Emergency planning and response. Our scientists have a long history developing models and tools to provide atmospheric dispersion modeling capabilities for emergency response operations. We focus on fast, accurate and user-friendly models to support emergency planning and response at U.S. Department of Energy emergency operations centers. Coupled with atmospheric dispersion modeling and applied toxicology tools, our scientists are developing enhanced approaches for assessing the downwind health effects from airborne releases involving mixtures of hazardous chemicals.
    Contact: Cliff Glantz
  • Chemical Imaging. Our scientists are developing a unique liquid imaging capability for in situ electrochemical process research at the molecular scale. Watching molecular-level interactions in real time and place allows new understanding that will move the science from observation to fundamental research in fields from energy storage to biological and chemical detection and monitoring.
    Contact: Xiao-Ying Yu

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