Environmental Science Division (EVS) a Division of Argonne National Laboratory
Research Highlights Index

Atmospheric Science and Climate Research

EVS research, combined with portable, high-performance climate and weather applications, offers a unique look at the complexities of a dynamic planet.

In an ever-changing, dynamic climate, we measure, model, and analyze atmospheric processes that are vital to understanding our planet. Our measurement capabilities range from remote sensing and surface meteorology instruments to instrumentation designed to quantify the land-atmosphere exchange of energy, water, and greenhouse gases. Modeling capabilities begin with regional-scale climate, air quality, and aerosol modeling and extend to global chemical transport models, general circulation models of the atmosphere, models of the biosphere, and coupled Earth system models. Our strength is in our ability to develop models, methods, and data sets that bridge the gap between observations and computer simulations of the atmosphere.

Climate Observation Facility Operation

For the DOE Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program (ARM; www.arm.gov) we provide operational management for the Southern Great Plains facility in Oklahoma. This facility, established in 1992, is the first and largest of the ARM fixed field research sites.

The Southern Great Plains is one location of a DOE Office of Science user facility, the ARM Climate Research Facility (ACRF). The ACRF fixed sites and mobile facilities provide data from strategically located, in situ and remote sensing observatories around the world. The data gathered support studies of the effects of aerosols, precipitation, surface flux, and clouds on the global climate. ACRF is the world's largest, most comprehensive scientific user facility providing atmospheric observations for climate research.

Surface Meteorology

Our group has nearly four decades of expertise in observations, instrumentation, and modeling of micrometeorological processes in the atmospheric surface layer, as well as in probing the atmospheric boundary layer and its properties with in situ and remote sensing instrumentation.

Our team has expertise in various in situ instrument systems:

  • We manage surface meteorological instrument systems for ARM, AmeriFlux, and the Argonne Emergency Management System. The surface-based observations we make provide a direct measure of atmospheric phenomena.
  • We use the eddy covariance and Bowen ratio techniques to measure the land-surface exchange of water vapor, heat, momentum, carbon dioxide, methane, other greenhouse gases, and air pollutants. These measurements in the atmospheric surface layer monitor meteorology and air quality.

Remote Sensing

We humans inhabit and deploy our instruments in only a small fraction of the atmosphere. To understand the four-dimensional nature of our weather, we must depend on remote sensing technologies that use various wavelengths of electromagnetic energy as probes. Our remote sensing group employs a variety of techniques:

  • Passive sensors, including microwave radiometers and broadband and multi-band radiometers, measure solar and Earth radiances, as well as total column water vapor. Passive sensors analyze the natural radiation they receive.
  • Active remote sensors, including sodars, radars, and lidars of various frequencies, measure vertical profiles of winds, aerosols, precipitation, and atmospheric turbulence. Active sensors emit energy and then detect and measure the radiation that is reflected or backscattered from targets.
  • In addition to measurements, we develop retrieval algorithms to extract geophysical meaning from the remotely sensed data, deploy instruments for field experiments across the globe, and publish the results in the scientific literature to improve understanding of climate change, wind energy, atmospheric transport and diffusion, and precipitation processes.

Modeling and Analysis

We develop and evaluate models of the atmosphere and biosphere at regional to global scales:

  • We model aerosol-cloud interactions, aerosol chemistry and transport, and radiative forcing in the atmosphere.
  • We develop representations of crops in global-scale models of the biosphere.
  • We analyze and support air quality and meteorological assessments for multidisciplinary environmental impact statements.
  • We develop open-source and community-supported software and applications that help convert raw observational data from radars, wind profilers, and microwave radars to geophysical variables that are suitable for model evaluations and the development of process parameterizations, such as the Python-ARM Radar Toolkit.
  • We have developed high-spatial-resolution (12 km grid size), multi-decadal, dynamically downscaled regional climate projections for the North American continent for two forcing scenarios (RCP 4.5, RCP 8.5) and three different global climate model boundary conditions. Regional climate modeling output from this effort will be made available from a data portal by the end of summer 2015.