News & Events


Solar Geoengineering May Not be a Long-Term Solution for Climate Change


Pumping aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight, thus cooling Earth, is one last-ditch method for dealing with climate change. According to new research, solar geoengineering may fail to prevent catastrophic warming in the long run. It would not prevent high atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from destabilizing low-lying clouds, opening the door to extreme warming. "Solar geoengineering ultimately may not fix the problem if high greenhouse gas emissions continue for more than a century," says Tapio Schneider, Theodore Y. Wu Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Research Scientist. [Caltech story]

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FUTURE Ignited


Nearly 200 undergraduates from more than 120 colleges and universities across the country joined Caltech for FUTURE Ignited, a virtual event that aimed to encourage students of color to pursue graduate studies in science and engineering. The goal of FUTURE Ignited is to diversify STEM with students of color who will go on to become incredible graduate students and scientific leaders in their respective fields. [Caltech story]


EAS Remembers James J. Morgan


James (Jim) J. Morgan, Marvin L. Goldberger Professor of Environmental Engineering Science, Emeritus, passed away on September 19, 2020. Dr. Jim Morgan came to Caltech in 1965 as Associate Professor of Environmental Health Engineering. After 35 years of distinguished service to the Institute, he became emeritus in 2000. He served as the Academic Officer for Environmental Engineering Science, 1971-72, Dean of Students, 1972-75, Executive Officer for Environmental Engineering Science, 1974-80 and 1993-96, Acting Dean of Graduate Studies, 1981-84, and Vice President for Student Affairs, 1980-89. Professor Morgan’s research was concerned with the chemistry and technology of water treatment, the scientific basis for establishing criteria and standards for water quality protection, and manganese in fresh and marine waters. He was renowned as a caring teacher and mentor to generations of students and scholars. His book on Aquatic Chemistry, which he co-authored with his advisor Werner Stumm, remains the standard reference on the subject (cited more than 25,000 times) and has become a worldwide classic. He received numerous awards and honors, including election to the National Academy of Engineering and the Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize for Water Science and Technology from the National Water Research Institute. Jim Morgan and Werner Stumm were awarded the Stockholm Water Prize in 1999. [Caltech story]

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Undersea Earthquakes Shake Up Climate Science


Researchers show how they are able to make use of existing seismic monitoring equipment, as well as historic seismic data, to determine how much the temperature of the earth's oceans has changed and continues changing, even at depths that are normally out of the reach of conventional tools. They do this by listening for the sounds from the many earthquakes that regularly occur under the ocean, says Jörn Callies, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering. Callies says these earthquake sounds are powerful and travel long distances through the ocean without significantly weakening, which makes them easy to monitor. [Caltech story]

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Professor Victoria Orphan Named Member of AAAS


Victoria J. Orphan, James Irvine Professor of Environmental Science and Geobiology and the director of the Center for Environmental Microbial Interactions (CEMI), has been honored as a new member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS). Orphan focuses on communities of microbial life involved in the cycling of elements such as sulfur, carbon, and nitrogen. She has spent decades studying the partnership of a species of bacteria and a species of archaea that live within deep-sea methane seeps in what is called a consortia, a kind of symbiotic aggregate of multiple species. [Caltech story]

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International Alliance of Universities Addressing Climate Change


Caltech has joined dozens of universities around the globe in launching the International Universities Climate Alliance (IUCA). The alliance is a network of fourty universities in eighteen countries, each with different strengths in analyzing and addressing climate change. "The IUCA hopes to be a resource to governments and other stakeholders that provides an independent and respected international voice on matters related to climate science, impacts, mitigation, and adaptation," says Andrew Thompson, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering. [Caltech story]

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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]

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Jing Li Receives AAAR Sheldon Friedlander Award


Jing Li, a postdoctoral scholar working with Professor Michael R. Hoffmann, is the recipient of the 2019 Sheldon K. Friedlander Award from the American Association of Aerosol Research (AAAR). The award recognizes an outstanding dissertation by an individual who has earned a doctoral degree in any discipline related to the physical, biomedical or engineering sciences in the field of aerosol science and technology. In her doctoral thesis, Jing focused on studying the global PM-borne biologicals and their toxicity, more broadly in bioaerosol field. Her dissertation work raises the awareness of airborne transmission of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), as well as global differences of local source-specific PM toxicity. [Past recipients]

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Stewart and Lynda Resnick Pledge $750 Million to Caltech to Support Environmental Sustainability Research


Stewart and Lynda Resnick have announced a $750 million pledge to Caltech to support cutting-edge research into the most pressing challenges in environmental sustainability. "Stewart and Lynda Resnick's generosity and vision will permit Caltech to tackle issues of water, energy, food, and waste in a world confronting rapid climate change," says Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum. [Caltech story]

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New Climate Model to Be Built from the Ground Up


"Projections with current climate models—for example, of how features such as rainfall extremes will change—still have large uncertainties, and the uncertainties are poorly quantified," says Professor Tapio Schneider, principal investigator of the Climate Modeling Alliance (CliMA). "For cities planning their stormwater management infrastructure to withstand the next 100 years' worth of floods, this is a serious issue; concrete answers about the likely range of climate outcomes are key for planning." The new climate model will be built by a consortium of researchers led by Caltech, in partnership with MIT; the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS); and JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA. It will use data-assimilation and machine-learning tools to improve itself in real time, harnessing both Earth observations and the nested high-resolution simulations. "The success of computational weather forecasting demonstrates the power of using data to improve the accuracy of computer models; we aim to bring the same successes to climate prediction," says Professor Andrew Stuart. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights CMS ESE Tapio Schneider Andrew Stuart