Science Focus Area: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Principal Investigator(s):
Jerome Fast, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Larry Berg, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Samson Hagos, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
John Shilling, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Co-Investigator(s):
Casey Burleyson, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Zhe Feng, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Maoyi Huang, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Evgenni Kassianov, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Gourihar Kulkarni, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Po-Lun Ma, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Rob Newsom, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Mikhail Ovchinnikov, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Mikhail Pekour, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Yun Qian, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Laura Riihimaki, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Koichi Sakaguchi, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Manish Shrivastava, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Adam Varble, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Heng Xiao, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Rahul Zaveri, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Alla Zelenyuk, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Earth system models are used to study the evolution of and interactions among the atmosphere, ocean, land, cryosphere, and biosphere as well as to provide projections of climate. However, these models continue to have uncertainties associated with their representations of land-surface properties, boundary-layer processes, clouds, and aerosols (among others), in part because many of the relevant processes cannot be explicitly resolved and must instead be parameterized.

A major stumbling block is the limited observations and/or a lack of process-level understanding of many subgrid-scale processes that must be represented by parameterizations. Carefully targeted observational research, including long-term and field campaign measurements coupled with laboratory studies, is needed to underpin a complete fundamental understanding of key processes and how they interact over a range of spatial and temporal scales. This observational research must go hand-in-hand with multi-scale modeling, from molecular to synoptic scales, to tease out the process-level understanding required to develop improved parameterizations that reduce uncertainties in Earth system model predictions.

Therefore, a team of atmospheric scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is conducting a project designed to integrate new knowledge on convective clouds, aerosols, and their interaction with the Earth’s surface. Process-level findings from combined observational and multi-scale high-resolution modeling studies during the three-year period will help answer some of the most important challenges in atmospheric science and contribute to the foundation of new parameterizations used by Earth system models as they evolve. The research effort focuses on three key areas:

  • What are the key interactions among clouds, aerosols, and the land surface and how are those interactions manifested in the larger-scale climate system?
  • What are the key factors that control transitions in cloud populations and what are the effects of convective initiation, deepening, aggregation, and upscale growth of clouds on these transitions?
  • What are the key processes that affect the evolving composition and size distribution of carbonaceous aerosols and consequently the spatial variability of aerosol microphysical, optical, and cloud-nucleating properties?

In addition, a more holistic approach is used that integrates and focuses research on select ARM datasets where sufficient measurements are available to address all three science questions that are inherently coupled.

To learn more about this SFA, read this ASR feature story.