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Interactions between the ocean, atmosphere, land, cryosphere, and biosphere control Earth's climate. Research performed within the ESS department aims to characterize and model the fundamental dynamics of the climate system to predict its response to anthropogenic forcing and to provide avenues for mitigation.

Research Groups

We study how ecosystems and the services they provide to people are changing at regional levels. Our group consists of ecologists, remote sensing specialists, biogeochemists and land-surface modelers, working together scientifically to support conservation, management, and policy development.

Our group focuses on social and economic impacts of environmental change, and on the economics of rural development in Africa.

Understanding interactions between the biosphere, atmosphere and lithosphere of the Cenozoic.

Our interests are centered around the mechanisms and impacts of environmental change. We use a variety of numerical tools, including global and regional climate models, to understand the processes that govern the behavior of the climate system. These processes are characterized both by observations of the present state of the system and by records of past changes. By combining climate model experiments with direct and proxy observations, we seek to understand the mechanisms that shape, and have shaped, known expressions of the climate system.

The Field lab focuses on basic ecological research from the ecosystem scale to the global scale. Emphases include climate-change impacts, ecosystem responses to multi-factor global changes, the terrestrial carbon cycle, biosphere/atmosphere interactions, and biogeochemical consequences of changes in species composition. We use experiments, models, and satellite data for a synthetic perspective.

The Jackson lab examines the different ways that people affect the Earth. We seek to produce the building blocks of basic scientific knowledge and to use that knowledge to guide policy solutions for global warming, energy extraction, and other environmental issues. We're currently examining the effects of climate change and droughts on forest mortality and grassland ecosystems. Recently we've also published the first studies looking at fracking and drinking water quality and mapped thousands of natural gas leaks across cities such as Boston and Washington, D.C.

The Konings lab is focused on understanding the coupling of the carbon and water cycles at the land surface, to allow predictions of ecosystem response to a changing climate.  We are especially  interested in how water (and energy) availability and vegetation function respond to each other across timescales and how vegetation water content influences this behavior. To address these issues, we primarily use the tools of remote sensing data analysis (especially at microwave-frequency) and model development.

Our group studies biogeochemical and ecological processes in forest and agricultural systems. In particular, much of our research focuses on the effects of land use change and other human caused changes on biogeochemical processes and trace gas exchanges in tropical ecosystems. In the past, most of our work was at the interface between terrestrial ecology, soil science and atmospheric science.

Research currently focuses on hurricane dynamics that can lead to better forecasts on weather- and climate-relevant timescales.

Our group studies atmospheric dynamics, climate variability, and general circulation. Increased confidence in quantitative climate prediction can only come from a deep understanding of the physical processes that set climate. Important physical mechanisms and interactions in atmosphere and climate dynamics will be defined and isolated in idealized models, and subsequently tested using observational and reanalysis records and with comprehensive models.

Our group studies the physics of the ocean circulation. Specifically, we seek to understand the dynamics of highly energetic, time-variable flows such as ocean fronts, vortices, and eddies. Such flows efficiently exchange heat, salt, nutrients, and dissolved gases between the surface of the ocean and the ocean interior and hence play an important role in the Earth’s climate and the oceanic sequestration of carbon.