ClimateLab faculty, staff and students study the marine and terrestrial geologic record to understand the history and dynamics of natural climate variability, and use models, satellite products and observations to investigate the mechanisms of contemporary climate valiability and anthropogenic change. We investigate the connections between climate and society, seeking to understand the dynamics of change in natural and human systems.
Some Active Research Topics
Large eddy simulation in ocean models
Much of the memory of coupled climate models, from seasons to centuries, is the oceanic component, and the majority of the subsurface ocean energy is held in mesoscale eddies. These eddies transport energy, momentum, salinity, and other tracers, and thereby affect the climate. Yet, it is only now that computational capabilities have made it possible to run climate models at sufficient resolution to permit or resolve larger eddies, avoiding many uncertain parameters approximating the influence of eddies at unresolved scales.
Variability in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific
The El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is just one of the ways in which ocean-atmosphere exchanges of energy in the eastern tropical Pacific affect the global climate system. ENSO variability in turn may change, depending on alterations in background climate state, such as warming or cooling of average surface temperature of the tropical Pacific ocean, or rise or fall of subsurface density layers. Our work is providing multi-dimensional reconstructions of changes in past surface temperatures, plankton ecosystems, and subsurface density and nutrient profiles in order to understand natural and human drivers that modulate ENSO over time.
Forest growth and water stress in the Amazon rainforest
Using new, high-resolution spectrometers, we can now measure this chlorophyll fluorescence from space, which can, in turn, be used to quantify photosynthetic activity and plant productivity globally. Using additional scatterometer satellite measurements of canopy water content, we can now measure water canopy content and photosynthesis from space. Combining these measurements with climate model simulations of the Amazon, the impact of drought on forest growth now and in the future can be quantified.
Rapid changes in the Arctic climate system
While the newest generation of climate models have significantly improved their ability to simulate the disappearing sea ice cover, a fundamental understanding of the drivers of the observed behavior of sea ice remains elusive. Arctic cyclones can influence all of these drivers, and Arctic cyclones are in turn highly influenced by the distribution of sea ice. Climate system model experiments at scales that resolve the detailed processes within Arctic cyclones reveal the relationships between atmosphere and ice.
Tropical glaciers: past, present, and future
The ongoing retreat of tropical glaciers is among the most visible impacts of anthropogenic climate change and may stress water resources in some of the world's most vulnerable economies. Yet we lack a fundamental understanding of the drivers (temperature, precipitation) of tropical glacier retreat. Geochemical reconstructions of temperature and precipitation in the past, coupled with climate and glaciological modeling, can reveal the climate forcings on tropical glaciers and predict their future.