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 our ability to bridge dimensional gaps, from measurement of the smallest ice crystal to modeling of the global circulation.

Climate Observation Facilities Operations

For the U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program (ARM; www.arm.gov) we operate climate research user facilities:

  • We provide operational management for Southern Great Plains facility in Oklahoma. This facility, established in 1992, is the first and largest of the ARM fixed sites.
  • We are responsible for the management and operation of the ARM Second Mobile Facility (AMF2). This is a unique observational platform for climate observation on seasonal to annual time scales. The platform was designed and constructed at Argonne for deployment in remote locations, on land and at sea. To date, AMF2 deployments have included complex mountainous terrain, remote equatorial islands, and challenging shipboard operations.
  • The ARM Climate Research Facility (ACRF), which encompasses the Southern Great Plains facility and AMF2, establishes and operates field research sites and mobile facilities to study the effects of aerosols, precipitation, surface flux, and clouds on global climate change. ACRF is the world's largest, most comprehensive scientific user facility providing atmospheric observations for climate research.

Surface Meteorology

To understand our atmosphere, we must measure its properties.

  • We manage 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.