The Earth Systems Science Division tackles tough environmental challenges where restoration is uncertain and timeframes are long. We deliver insights and decision support through the development of tools and solutions in critical areas of energy, environment, intelligence, and defense. 


Applied Decision Systems and Analytics Group

Our researchers design, implement, execute tests, and evaluate events on innovative hardware, software, and high‐tech interfaces, along with related software support systems. With an integrated approach across subject matter experts and sponsors, we design and develop analytic and data visualization software systems and web‐based applications. These systems integrate data science, risk assessments, and visualization tools to inform decision‐making in critical areas of energy, environment, intelligence, and defense. Our expertise is in the following areas:
  • Applied Decision Analytics & Visualization
  • Applied Software Engineering & Technology
  • Decision Support Systems
A large white cylinder sits on a yellow platform, waiting to be lifted by crane onto a ship.

Starting in Spain, a test cask containing simulated spent nuclear fuel rods and assemblies gathered data over 9,548 miles of transport by truck, ship, and rail, and transfer by crane from each mode to the next. Triaxial accelerometers and strain gauges inside and outside the equipment collected 512 to 10,000 data points every second.

Photo by Steven Ross | PNNL

Earth Systems Predictability and Resiliency Group

We identify unique markers indicative of natural processes, concealed threats, and/or anthropogenic activities. Our group provides operational intelligence and system performance forecasting to enable decision support. We use this information to understand and predict how the coupling of human–Earth processes (e.g., climate, water, land use, and energy system interactions) controls complex energy and environmental systems behavior. Our researchers use integrated approaches that include sensing and measurement, environmental forensics, high-performance computing, spatial and non‐spatial statistics, spatiotemporal analysis models, GIS algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence methods, and geovisualization. Look for expertise in the following areas:
  • Earth Systems Data Science
  • Environmental Signatures
  • Geospatial Science, Analytics & Geointelligence
  • Sensing, Measurement & Forecasting
  • Watershed Hydrology Modeling

Environmental Subsurface Science Group

We advance fundamental scientific theory and understanding of mechanisms controlling hydrobiogeochemical processes in subsurface environments. Experimental research, high-performance computational subsurface modeling, edge computing, and machine learning enables multidisciplinary knowledge integration. This integration includes interfacial biogeochemistry coupled with geophysics to enable real‐time predictive understanding and visualization of subsurface processes and systems across spatiotemporal scales. Our group provides leadership solutions for environmental remediation, sustainable subsurface energy resource identification, production, storage, and utilization (e.g., fossil energy and carbon management, geothermal energy, etc.), as well as for national security. Look to us for expertise in:
  • Computational Geophysics
  • Subsurface Fate & Transport Modeling
  • Subsurface Process Science
  • Subsurface Systems

Operational Systems Engineering Group

Our group provides solutions to the nation’s energy challenges with the advancement of scientific theory and principles through integrated design and multidisciplinary engineering. These solutions include improving efficiency, mitigating the risks and impacts of renewable energy systems on the natural environment, and providing engineered solutions to address risks to national security. You will find our expertise in:
  • Applied Engineering
  • Waterpower Systems Science & Engineering

Risk and Environmental Assessment Group

Our researchers develop and apply analytic methods to assess, quantify, and understand risk (e.g., safety and security) necessary to support decision-making and policy development. By advancing the understanding of complex Earth systems, we quantify and mitigate human and ecological risks posed by built systems, regulatory policies, and/or decisions (e.g., infrastructure operation, land cover decisions and urban development in coastal areas) in critical areas of energy, environment, intelligence, and defense. Our expertise is found in:
  • Environmental Assessment
  • Environmental Justice
  • Health Physics & Programmatic Risk
  • Risk Analysis
Man wearing safety vest and hard hat holds a geiger counter by some rusty pipes to see if they are radioactive