News & Events


Soil Moisture Drives Year-to-Year Change in Land Carbon Uptake


Earth's land ecosystems absorb a large portion of all the carbon dioxide emissions produced by human activities, helping to slow global warming. On average for a given year, plants and soil take up, or fix, about 30 percent of human emissions. But from one year to the next, that number can be as high as 40 percent or as low as 20 percent. Climate scientists aim to pin down exactly what produces this variability so they can account for it and create the most accurate models for predicting future climate. "Our results show that soil moisture significantly impacts near-surface temperatures and atmospheric humidity because of these land–atmosphere feedbacks," says Christian Frankenberg, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Research Scientist. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights ESE Christian Frankenberg postdocs Vincent Humphrey

A Third of California Methane Traced to a Few Super-Emitters


Professor Christian Frankenberg, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Research Scientist, is helping California create a detailed, statewide inventory of methane point sources. The new data can be used to target actions to reduce emissions of this potent greenhouse gas. "This work shows unequivocally that methane point sources not only exist in the oil and gas industry but also in landfills and agriculture. Finding these large point sources is the trickiest part; mitigation can ensue quickly after that, representing a win-win for both the environment as well as industry," says Frankenberg. [Caltech story]

Tags: ESE Christian Frankenberg

Tools and Techniques to Track and Study Methane


Methane is less prevalent in the atmosphere than fellow greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2), but it presents more difficult challenges for researchers attempting to study it. Professor Wennberg, is working with colleagues from across Caltech to study methane and its effects on the globe and to pioneer tools and techniques needed to identify, track, and characterize the gas and its sources. One such colleague is Professor Vahala who has paved the way for the miniaturization of high-resolution spectrometers. His new soliton-based system is the basis for a new collaboration with Professor Frankenberg to apply dual-comb spectrometer to methane tracking and analysis. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights ESE Paul Wennberg Kerry Vahala Christian Frankenberg