The Joint Global Change Research Institute conducts research to advance fundamental understanding of human and Earth systems and provide decision-relevant information for management of emerging global risks and opportunities.

Research Highlights

  • Researchers tested a new hydrological emulator against model simulations of global runoff from river basins worldwide.A Hydrological Emulator for Global Applications

    Scientists use global hydrological models and Earth system models to explore future water resource scenarios. To overcome the computational requirements for these complex models, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory developed an efficient, open-source, ready-to-use hydrological emulator that mimics complex global hydrologic models and Earth system models. In simulations of global runoff, the emulator achieved computational efficiency seven orders of magnitude higher than the widely used Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model.
    Y. Liu, M.I. Hejazi, H. Li, X. Zhang, G. Leng, “A Hydrological Emulator for Global Applications – HE v1.0.0.” Geoscientific Model Development 11, 1077-1092 (2018). [DOI: 10.5194/gmd-11-1077-2018]

  • Changes in climate can affect tundra plants; changes in plants can in turn affect the climate. Photo: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.As Ecosystems Heat Up, Tundra Changes Speed Up

    Rapid warming in Arctic and alpine regions is driving changes in tundra plant communities, with unknown consequences for the function of these ecosystems. A researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory contributed to an international study that combined more than 56,000 observations over nearly three decades to examine how the functional traits of tundra plants change over time and space.
    A.D. Bjorkman et al., “Change in Plant Functional Traits Across a Warming Tundra Biome.” Nature (2018). [DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0563-7].

  • Putting building energy codes into action will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Photo: Thrive Home Builders.Linking Local and National Government for Global Mitigation

    Building energy efficiency is an important strategy globally for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Like many such strategies, it requires close coordination between national and local governments to work well. Researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the University of Maryland examined gaps in implementation of building energy codes to help coordinate this effort and, ultimately, overcome hurdles.
    M. Evans, S. Yu, A. Staniszewski, L. Jin, A. Denysenko, “The international implications of national and local coordination on building energy codes: Case studies in six cities.” Journal of Cleaner Production 191, 127-134 (2018). [DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.04.142]

  • When water is managed, more is available for human uses, but less is available to other land in the watershed.Effects of Water Management on Future Droughts from Atmosphere to Rivers: A Global Multi-Model Analysis

    Precipitation patterns, irrigation water, and stream flows have significant socioeconomic effects and are projected to change. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Montana State University established an integrated approach to quantify the effects of human activities on the propagation of future meteorological, agricultural, and hydrological droughts at the global scale.
    W. Wan, J. Zhao, H. Li, A. Mishra, M. Hejazi, H. Lu, Y. Demissie, and H. Wang, “A Holistic View of Water Management Impacts on Future Droughts: A Global Multi-Model Analysis.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 123(11), 5947-5972 (2018). [DOI: 10.1029/2017JD027825]

  • PNNL-Led Paper Links Microbes, Warmer Earth to Faster Flow of Soil Carbon Into AtmospherePNNL-Led Paper Links Microbes, Warmer Earth to Faster Flow of Soil Carbon Into Atmosphere

    In a study published August 2 in Nature, led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory terrestrial ecology scientist Dr. Ben Bond-Lamberty, researchers show that this process is speeding up as Earth warms and is happening faster than plants are taking in carbon through photosynthesis. The team found that the rate at which microbes are transferring carbon from soil to the atmosphere has increased 1.2 percent over a 25-year time period, from 1990 through 2014.
    For more information, see the PNNL news release, “As temperatures rise, Earth’s soil is ‘breathing’ more heavily.”

  • While aerosols from North American and European countries have decreased in recent decades, emissions from developing nations in South and East Asia have increased.Long-Term Aerosol Trends in the Continental United States

    A study led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory revealed the influence of domestic and foreign emissions on trends of aerosols and their effect on energy balance in the United States from 1980-2014. Researchers found that, in the western United States, increases in aerosols from East Asia decreased the radiative warming effect induced by reductions in U.S. emissions by 25 percent.
    Y. Yang, H. Wang, S.J. Smith, R. Zhang, S. Lou, H. Yu, C. Li, P.J. Rasch, “Source Apportionments of Aerosols and Their Direct Radiative Forcing and Long-Term Trends Over Continental United States.” Earth’s Future 6 (2018). [DOI: 10.1029/2018EF000859]

  • Integrating Human System Dynamics Into Earth System Models

    Integrating Human System Dynamics Into Earth System Models

    Historically, Earth system models (ESMs) have considered only limited, one-way interactions with human systems and human system modeling, with key human-caused drivers of the Earth system (such as industrial emissions and land use changes) supplied by external models. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory surveyed a broad set of relevant literature on fully coupled models with two-way feedbacks between the human and Earth systems.
    Reference: K. Calvin and B. Bond-Lamberty, “Integrated Human-Earth System Modeling-State of the Science and Future Directions.” Environmental Research Letters 13, 063006 (2018). []