November 25, 2020

AGU 2020: Connect Virtually with PNNL

AGU 2020 Researchers

Researchers at PNNL discuss their work and its impact at AGU 2020.

Andrea Starr | PNNL

Meet some of 150+ PNNL researchers presenting their latest findings at the largest international Earth science conference. Their excitement for science is contagious.

Keep scrolling or click the links below to learn more about some of the people behind the science, job opportunities, the many ways you can connect with us at AGU, and related announcements.

PEOPLE                         JOBS                         PNNL IN AGU SESSIONS                         News RELEASES
Earth Day Home



Jiwen Fan
Senior Research Scientist, Earth & Biological Systems

AGU Jiwen 400

“I have a strong curiosity about how things work. For the longest time, I’ve been naturally attracted to things related to the environment and weather. I grew up in a region with vibrant weather. So, I always wondered: What’s going on with the sky?”

What are you studying?
How urban areas and urban air pollution affect storms. There has been a rapid global increase in urbanization in recent decades, and that pattern is expected to continue. Urbanization leads to changes in both land use and land cover, as well as in anthropogenic aerosols. Past studies generally focused on one of the factors—either the urban land effect or the aerosol effect.

Why does that matter?
My research directly benefits people and society. I am always aware these storms often produce destructive forces. For example, we showed how the urban land effect of Kansas City changed the path of a supercell, diverting a severe storm with hail that was headed toward the city. And in Houston, we showed how the urban land effect enhances sea-breeze circulation and accelerates storms developing into mixed-phase clouds, as well as how anthropogenic aerosols enhance storm intensity and heavy precipitation.

PNNL rocks
My most favorite thing about working at PNNL is the collaborative environment.

Fun fact
As a child, I knitted sweaters for myself and family. In college, I liked ballroom dancing. Nowadays, I like drawing.

View Jiwen’s presentation on December 15



Jingyu Wang
Post-doctoral Researcher, Earth & Biological Sciences

AGU Jingyu 400

“I’ve had a lifelong interest in science and a desire for intellectual challenge. My area of study – weather in general, hail and tornadoes specifically – makes me think differently by engaging myself in the creation of new knowledge.”

What are you studying?
Extreme weather events and their projection in future climate. Nearly half of all devastating hail and tornado hazards are associated with mesoscale convective systems in the United States. The largest form of deep convective storms, known as mesoscale convective systems, is an ensemble of cumulonimbus clouds that are organized into a storm complex and produce distinct mesoscale circulations.

Why does that matter?
Linking extreme weather events to mesoscale convective systems enables increased understanding of these impactful systems. A mesoscale convective system (MCS) is a collection of thunderstorms that act as a system. An MCS can spread across an entire state and last more than 24 hours. Those systems play a key role in Earth's climate system and global hydrological cycle, caused by large‐scale dynamic and local microphysical processes. In addition to flooding and extreme rainfall, mesoscale convective systems also produce numerous hail and tornadoes.

PNNL rocks
My favorite thing about working at PNNL is the opportunity to work alongside my colleagues. They are super motivated, world-class scientists.

Fun fact
I love Legos.

View Jingyu's presentation on December 11.


Kyle Pressel
Computational Atmospheric Physicist, Earth & Biological Sciences

AGU Pressel 400

“I have always been fascinated by the atmosphere and the notion that much of the weather we experience and the clouds we see can be described in terms of equations that we can solve on computers.”

What are you studying?
The general theme of the work I’m presenting at AGU is to show machine learning can be used to represent highly uncertain processes in climate models. For example, by training the machine learning on data from high-resolution models like Large Eddy Simulation, which provide detailed representations of the uncertain processes, we can better understand the formation of rain from cloud droplets.

Why does that matter?
By finding innovative strategies to leverage high-resolution atmospheric models that can directly simulate important parts of the dynamics of clouds, we can reduce some of the primary sources of uncertainty in weather prediction and Earth system models. These models provide predictions about weather that shapes day-to-day decisions or about the future evolution of the Earth system that informs policy-maker decisions. Enhancing the accuracy of these predictions means people can make better decisions for both long- and short-term planning.

PNNL rocks
My favorite thing about working at PNNL is having the opportunity to interact with many scientists who have expertise in diverse areas. Daily, I collaborate with other staff who are experts on a broad range of topics from computational scientists, observationalists, to chemists, all with a similar passion for advancing scientific understanding. There are very few places in the world where you have this opportunity.

Fun fact
When I'm not searching bugs in code, I enjoy searching for rare native lady bug (beetle) species.

View Kyle's presentation on December 09.


Nick Ward
Earth Scientist, Coastal Sciences

“Curiosity about how the Earth works sparked my interest in science early on. Growing up at the coast, this curiosity first came in the form of trying to understand and predict how tides, swell, and wind interact to make optimal surfing and sailing conditions. This has evolved into curiosity about the things we can’t “see” in the environment

—molecules and microbes.”  

What are you studying?
The goal of my research is to understand how ecosystems function and interact across the continuum of land, inland waters, the ocean, and the atmosphere. I mostly focus on carbon as a currency that gets exchanged across this continuum and the flow of water as the driver for these exchanges.

Why does that matter?
There is still much to be learned about how ecosystems naturally cycle carbon, and even more so how these natural dynamics interact with anthropogenic perturbations and disturbances such as extreme weather and sea level rise. My research is aimed at improving our ability to predict how ecosystems will behave under future conditions based on insights gained from past and present ecosystem behaviors.

PNNL rocks
PNNL is a hub for innovation. It’s amazing to talk with colleagues about the all the diverse work being done here and discoveries being made across the fundamental to applied science spectrum!

Fun fact
I love pretty much any outdoor activities such as surfing, kitesurfing, fishing, and more. The most interesting place I’ve kite surfed is across the mouth of the Amazon River.

View Nicks's presentation on December 10.


Ning Sun
Earth Scientist, Watershed Hydrology Modeling

Ning 400

“My career allows me to be creative and even encourages me to be creative. On top of that, there’s the added benefit of surprises, discoveries, and excitement in my day-to-day work. That led me to pursue a career in science.”

What are you studying?
As a hydrologist by training, I have developed, enhanced, and applied hydrological models from local to continental scales to address questions related to water availability, water quality and energy in the context of climate change, hydrometeorological extremes, and human-induced perturbations.

Why does that matter?
I believe my research is advancing scientific understandings with respect to natural and human system interactions that are keys to sustainable and reliable water management. Also, one of the chief motivations for my work is knowing that local stakeholders have used my research to support and inform their decisions about watershed planning.

PNNL rocks
I’ve been given many great opportunities at PNNL to grow my career and expand my research horizon. During my five years at the laboratory, I’ve grown as a scientist, with better interdisciplinary visions and as a leader of many projects at different scales.

Fun fact
I have a terrible sense of direction and can’t live without Google maps.

View Ning's presentation on December 16.


Sally Wang
Post-doctoral Researcher, Earth & Biological Sciences

AGU Sally 400

“I was part of a biological sciences research program for high school students in Taiwan as a high schooler. The lab experience inspired me to be a scientist (I thought that working with pipettes, chemicals, DNA, and RNA in the lab was really cool).”

What are you studying?
We are building a machine learning model and using a game-theory-based interpretation method, named the Shapley Additive explanation (SHAP), to explain the key drivers of large wildfires in the continental US. We found that the energy release component, an index representing fuel dryness and fire intensity, is the primary predictor of a large burned area.

Why does that matter?
Machine learning serves as a novel tool for enhancing both wildfire modeling and knowledge, particularly as wildfires are becoming more common and severe. Learning how to use this tool allows us to gain new knowledge that can potentially make the world safer by better understanding major fire controls for different regions in the US.

PNNL rocks
I think my favorite thing about PNNL is the people. PNNL is a place that gathers people with different backgrounds and expertise to advance scientific discoveries and technologies.

Fun fact
I bikepacked from Pingtung city to Hualien city (in Taiwan), a of total 200 miles—roughly the distance between PNNL and Seattle—in 4 days without any pre-training!

View Sally's presentation on December 08.

Follow Sally on Twitter at @scw1375.


Vanessa Garayburu-Caruso
Earth Scientist, Environmental Sciences

AGU Vanessa 400

“I personally like challenges. I see every new science question as an exciting puzzle that we have the opportunity to investigate.”

What are you studying?
I’m studying how the functional properties of organic matter vary across global river corridors. River organic matter drives the local- to global-scale biogeochemistry of river corridors. Scientists have broad theoretical understanding but lack knowledge of the continental- to global-scale spatial structure required to integrate organic matter chemistry into the Earth system models used to predict the future of the planet's environment.

Why does that matter?
Organic matter is key for many biological and chemical processes in river corridors. Understanding organic matter chemistry helps us get an idea of the overall river health, its natural capacity to remove contaminants like nitrate, and river water quality. This knowledge helps ensure the maintenance of healthy river corridor environments that humans can enjoy using for recreation, drinking water, and fishing.

PNNL rocks
I love working with a multidisciplinary group of scientists and the amazing mentorship and support I get from more senior scientists.  

Fun fact
I love warm weather and the ocean.

View Vanessa's presentation on December 10.

Follow Vanessa on Twitter at @Vanessa__GC.


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PNNL Sessions at AGU




About PNNL

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit For more information on PNNL, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Published: November 25, 2020