News & Events


How Do We Predict Climate Change?


To explore and predict how the climate will change, researchers create computer models of the real world. These mathematical models are based on the laws of physics and chemistry, which explain how water and air move, heat up, and cool in the atmosphere and ocean, how pollutants react in the atmosphere, and how sunlight and infrared radiation interact with molecules. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights CMS ESE Tapio Schneider Andrew Stuart Anna Jaruga

Methods from Weather Forecasting Can Be Adapted to Assess Risk of COVID-19 Exposure


Techniques used in weather forecasting can be repurposed to provide individuals with a personalized assessment of their risk of exposure to COVID-19 or other viruses, according to new research published by Caltech scientists. The technique has the potential to be more effective and less intrusive than blanket lockdowns for combatting the spread of disease, says Tapio Schneider, Theodore Y. Wu Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Research Scientist. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Chiara Daraio ESE Tapio Schneider Oliver Dunbar Lucas Böttcher Dmitry Burov Alfredo Garbuno-Inigo Gregory Wagner Sen Pei Raffaele Ferrari Jeffrey Shaman Jinlong Wu

Wennberg Lab Shows How Wildfire Smoke Increases Ozone Pollution


Using data gathered from a specially equipped jet that spent a month flying through and studying wildfire plumes, scientists have a better understanding now of how wildfire smoke impacts air quality. "Of course it is well known that wildfires lower air quality. But it's important to understand the chemical and physical mechanisms by which they do so that we can more effectively forecast how individual fires will impact the communities downwind of them," says Paul O. Wennberg, R. Stanton Avery Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Science and Engineering; Executive Officer for Environmental Science and Engineering; Director, Ronald and Maxine Linde Center for Global Environmental Science. [Caltech story]

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Measuring Ventilation to Quantify COVID-19 Risk


There are many different factors that play into models of COVID-19 transmission. One of these factors is ventilation of indoor spaces. A cross-disciplinary group of Caltech researchers as well as members of the Institute's facilities team are adapting technology used by geochemists and atmospheric scientists to survey ventilation rates in buildings across campus. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights ESE Paul Wennberg Alex Sessions Elizabeth Niespolo John Crounse Ted Present Nathan Dalleska

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]

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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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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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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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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]

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Graduate Student Wins AAAS Mass Media Fellowship


Giuliana Viglione, a graduate student in Professor Andrew Thompson’s group and a member of the first E111 class has been selected to join the 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellows Program. The fellows are placed at media organizations nationwide and trained to sharpening their abilities to communicate complex scientific issues to the public. In her research, Giuliana uses robots to investigate small-scale motions in the ocean and what their effect on climate may be.  She will be spending the summer working at King5, an NBC affiliate in Seattle, where she will use her expertise to report on the effects of climate change in the Pacific Northwest.

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