Saturday, April 18, 2015

PNNL Research Highlights

Fundamental and Computational Sciences Directorate
  1. Janet Jansson Featured on NPR's Science Friday
    Dr. Janet Jansson at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory spoke with Ira Flatow on National Public Radio's Science Friday on April 10, 2015, about how permafrost thaw is changing our environment. As temperatures warm, microbes in the permafrost become more active and decompose carbon in the permafrost soil. The permafrost has a large reservoir of carbon available, about twice as much as resides in the atmosphere. In worst-case scenarios, climate change could lead the microbes to release large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Understanding the impacts of climate change on biological systems is a key part of Jansson's research.
  2. Ruby Leung Named to AGU Atmospheric Sciences Fellows Selection Committee
    Dr. L. Ruby Leung, Laboratory Fellow and atmospheric scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, was invited to serve on the American Geophysical Union's Fellows Selection Committee for the Atmospheric Sciences. AGU is a professional scientific organization representing more than 62,000 members advancing the Earth and space sciences.
  3. Unlocking Cloud Gridlock
    Results: Even as computing power increases, current climate model formulas struggle to handle storm clouds at today's higher resolutions and smaller model grid sizes. Cumulus storm cloud systems are still only partially resolved. Armed with a new formula developed by a research team led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, scientists can now represent cumulus in grid sizes as fine as 2 kilometers to as coarse as 256 kilometers. The team's approach breaks the storm cloud gridlock by more accurately depicting how cumulus clouds transport moisture through the atmosphere.
  4. Cold Snaps Linger Despite Climate Change
    Results: Keep a winter coat and mittens handy. A new climate analysis from scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Reading (UK) found that under climate warming, cold air outbreaks, or CAOs, are projected to continue over North America but less frequently. In a geographic swath stretching from Alaska and southwestern Canada to the northwestern and mid-western United States, the top five coldest historical events may still happen. Indeed, as humans, ecosystems, and societal infrastructures adapt to an average warmer climate, these findings show continued future challenges in coping with extreme cold events.
  5. The Softer Side of Control without Clumping or Capping
    Results: Platinum's scarcity hinders widespread use of fuel cells, which provide power efficiently and without pollutants. Replacing some or all of this rare and expensive metal with common metals in a reactive, highly tunable nanoparticle form may expand fuel cell use. At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, scientists made such metal nanoparticles with a new gas-based technique and ion soft landing. As an added benefit, the particles are bare, without a capping layer that coats their surfaces and reduces their reactivity.
  6. Trading Off Climate Models' Issues
    Results: Using increased computing power, climate modelers divide Earth's atmosphere into smaller areas so that global models can represent more details in the climate. But how do these large models behave with this higher resolution? Using a regional atmospheric model as a proxy for upcoming high-resolution global climate models, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that global models carry many biases into the higher resolution regional output despite its finer detail. The research identified certain tradeoffs that highlight modeling challenges when moving from coarse to high-resolution simulations.
  7. Kravitz to Provide Climate Modeling Expertise to ESD Editorial Board
    Congratulations to Dr. Ben Kravitz, atmospheric scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, on being chosen to serve on the editorial board of Earth System Dynamics (ESD). Kravitz, chosen for his expertise in climate modeling and geoengineering, will assist with peer-reviews to evaluate manuscripts submitted for publishing.
  8. Atmospheric Rivers, Finely Modeled
    Results: Long and concentrated bands of water vapor originating from the tropics stretch toward the North American west coast, often causing heavy precipitation and flooding when they hit. Today's climate models may be swimming against the current when it comes to helping researchers understand these atmospheric rivers. Now, scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have found that the number of simulated atmospheric rivers decreases as the model increases in resolution. As reported in the Journal of Climate, accurately capturing the frequency of these extreme events hinges on the model's realistic simulation of atmospheric moisture amount and sub-tropical wind positions, among other large-scale environmental conditions. Their results may provide that much-needed watershed moment to improve the way the models handle extreme precipitation events.
  9. Kate Calvin Appointed to National Research Council Study Team
    Congratulations to Dr. Kate Calvin, selected to serve on a National Research Council committee studying models for understanding complex adaptive systems. Calvin is a research economist working at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) in College Park, Maryland. The study was commissioned by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to identify and evaluate modeling tools that could aid the intelligence community.
  10. Improving Energy, Performance Efficiency for High Performance Computing
    Shuaiwen Leon Song, a research scientist with PNNL’s High Performance Computing group, and Chao Li, a Ph.D. student with North Carolina State University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who spent time as a research intern at PNNL in 2014, are co-authors of, “Locality-Driven Dynamic GPU Cache Bypassing,” which recently was accepted by the 29th International Conference on Supercomputing (ICS). The paper, which presents novel cache optimizations for massively parallel, throughput-oriented architectures, such as GPUs, will be presented during the ICS 2015 Conference Program.