Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences Division (EESSD)

The Division is organized into three research activities:

Atmospheric Research

The Atmospheric System Research (ASR) is the primary U.S. research activity addressing two major areas of uncertainty in earth system models: the interdependence of clouds, atmospheric aerosols, and precipitation that in turn influences the radiation balance. ASR coordinates with the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility, using the continuous long-term datasets that in turn provide three-dimensional measurements of radiation, aerosols, clouds, precipitation, and thermodynamics over a range of environmental conditions at diverse geographic locations. The long-term observational data sets are supplemented with laboratory studies and shorter-duration, ground-based and airborne field campaigns to target specific atmospheric processes at various locations and under diverse atmospheric conditions. Earth System models incorporate ASR research results to both understand the processes that govern atmospheric components and to advance Earth System model capabilities with greater certainty. ASR seeks to develop integrated, scalable test-beds that incorporate process-level understanding of the life cycles of aerosols, clouds, and precipitation, that can be incorporated into dynamic models. 

Environmental System Science

The Environmental System Science supports research to provide a robust and scale-aware predictive understanding of terrestrial surface and subsurface ecosystems, including the role of hydro-biogeochemistry from the subsurface to the top of the vegetative canopy that considers effects of seasonal to interannual variability on spatial scales that span from molecular to global.   Using decadal-scale investments such as the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEEs) to study the variety of time scales and processes associated with ecological change, Terrestrial Ecosystem Science research focuses on understanding, observing, and modeling the processes controlling exchange flows between the atmosphere and the terrestrial biosphere, and improving and validating the representation of terrestrial ecosystems in coupled Earth System models. Subsurface Biogeochemical Research supports integrated experimental and modeling research, ranging from molecular to field scales, to understand and predict the role that hydrological, biogeochemical, geomorphological, and dynamical processes play in controlling the cycling and mobility of energy-relevant materials in the subsurface and across key surface-subsurface interfaces in the environment, including environmental contamination from past nuclear weapons production.  Experimental and modeling research is supported in part by capabilities at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.

Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling

BER’s Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling program (EESM) develops and applies high fidelity models representing Earth system changes in order to improve understanding of the significant drivers, feedbacks, and uncertainties within the integrated Earth system.  The program provides vital information needed for effective energy and connected infrastructure planning.  EESM supports the development of advanced computational, numerical, statistical, dynamical, biogeochemical and physical representations of the Earth system and its components in order to anticipate and project important Earth system changes, dynamical thresholds, and tipping points. BER supports the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) through the Earth System Model Development (ESMD) program area.  E3SM is a computationally efficient model adaptable to DOE’s emerging Leadership Computing Facility supercomputer architectures. ESMD supports the development of E3SM to address the grand challenge of actionable predictions of the changing Earth system, with an emphasis on the most critical scientific questions facing the nation and DOE.  It aims to push the frontier of high-resolution simulation of extreme Earth system phenomena and components across scales and disciplines. The Regional and Global Modeling Analysis (RGMA) program area seeks to enhance a predictive understanding of variability and change within the Earth System by advancing capabilities to design, evaluate, diagnose, and analyze global and regional Earth system model simulations informed by observations.  RGMA focuses on predictability across a wide range of temporal and spatial scales through the efficient use of a hierarchy of models and a multi-model approach, data management architectures, uncertainty characterization, and diagnostic measures.  RGMA activities examine interactions and feedbacks across the weather-climate continuum. The MultiSector Dynamics (MSD) program area seeks to advance scientific understanding of the complex interactions, interdependencies, and co-evolutionary pathways of human and natural systems, including interdependencies among natural and built environments, socioeconomic systems and sectors, and the broader multi-scale Earth system.   A critical focus of MSD modeling is to explore and advance predictability of stabilities, instabilities, resilience, and feedbacks in the face of changing influences, stressors, and extremes.

Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences Facilities

Two scientific user facilities exploited by the Earth and Environmental Sciences research programs include the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility and the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL).  These provide the broad scientific community with technical capabilities, scientific expertise, and unique information to facilitate science in areas of importance to DOE.