Feature Story

DOE awards $15.6 million for atmospheric research to improve climate modeling

27 projects will study complex cloud and aerosol interactions to better understand, predict, and respond to the climate emergency

DOE/US Department of Energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today awarded $15.6 million for new research studying the properties, formation, and interactions between atmospheric clouds and the aerosols that form them. These projects will help scientists better understand one of the most challenging aspects of earth system modeling and improve their ability to accurately predict weather and climate patterns—an essential tool in the Biden Administration’s efforts to combat the climate emergency.

“The Earth’s atmosphere holds the answers to how our planet is changing in the face of the climate crisis, as well as how we can predict and mitigate the effects,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “By putting some of America’s most talented researchers on the case, coupled with DOE’s unparalleled scientific capabilities, we’ll gain a better understanding of how this crisis is unfolding—paving the way for solutions that leave a safer, healthier world for our children and grandchildren.”

Aerosols are tiny particles that take on water and absorb and scatter light, which alters how readily the atmosphere forms clouds. Clouds modify aerosols in turn by changing their chemistry. These processes—some of the most complex interactions to model—affect temperature, precipitation patterns, and how much sunlight reaches and leaves the Earth’s surface, making them a critical aspect of producing accurate climate predictions.

These projects were chosen by competitive peer review under a funding opportunity by DOE’s Atmospheric System Research Program (ASR), sponsored by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) within the Office of Science. The ASR program is geared to observe and advance understanding of the atmospheric system in a holistic, comprehensive fashion that addresses a range of interrelated climatic processes, resulting in improved earth system models that can increase confidence in decision and policymaking. These studies will use data gathered by DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement user facility, the world’s leading facility for ground-based observations of atmospheric processes.

Awardees will pursue research in a range of atmospheric science topics, including the physical processes affecting:

  • Interactions between clouds and aerosols
  • The formation and lifecycle of atmospheric aerosols, including how they impact the climate
  • The formation, growth, and precipitation of low clouds over land and the ocean
  • The properties, lifecycle, and organization of deep convective clouds, such as thunderstorms
  • Clouds, aerosols, and the surface energy budget of the central Arctic

Today’s funding totals $15.6 million in Fiscal Year 2021 dollars for projects lasting three years in duration. A list of projects can be found at the BER website under “What's New”.

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