Climate Processes and interactions

Enhancing the understanding of processes affecting the Earth’s climate system and the changes occurring in the Earth’s climate are important aspects of research programs throughout the department. Processes affecting clouds and cloud feedbacks to a changing climate are amongst the biggest uncertainties facing scientists in understanding future climate change. Processes affecting climate variability on interannual to multi-decadal time scales from ocean related variability (e.g., from ENSO, AMM, PDO, and NAO) are also extremely important. Understanding climate teleconnections and their affect on atmospheric dynamics and regional climate change is a key focus of our research. Energy, water, carbon, and other trace gases are constantly exchanged between the biosphere and the atmosphere. These exchanges modify mass transport and the thermodynamic structure of the atmosphere and oceans, which in turn affect the atmospheric circulation, cloud formation, and rainfall, as well as land processes involving the carbon and nitrogen cycles, the hydrologic cycle, and the radiative budget of the Earth's surface. Exchange processes happen locally, on the scale of a cornfield, regionally, on the scale of the Amazon rainforest, and even globally, as large ecosystems such as the Arctic tundra respond to environmental pressures from global climate and land cover change. 

Students use observations from many sources (ground-based, ocean-based, aircraft, and satellites) along with regional and global climate models to understand the processes affecting the Earth’s climate system, including the atmosphere, oceans, ecosystems and land cover changes. These highly complex models allow students to ask 'what-if' questions about climate variability and how the Earth’s climate system, as well as natural and managed ecosystems, respond to natural and human-related forcings on climate. In addition, students use data collected during field projects and by ground-based and satellite-based remote sensing devices to better understand interactions between clouds and aerosols so that their representation in climate models can be improved, ultimately allowing better understanding of cloud feedbacks. Students use reanalysis and satellite data to study the natural variability associated with atmosphere-ocean interactions. Are you interested in the consequences of future climate and land cover change on the Earth's climate? These problems need to be understood and addressed.

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