Atmospheric, Earth, and Energy Division

Integrating atmospheric, earth, and energy sciences in support of defense and global security.

The Atmospheric, Earth, and Energy Division (AEED) supports the Laboratory's defense, global security, and fundamental science programs by conducting research and development in the areas of atmospheric, earth, and energy sciences. The division supports the Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (CAMS) at LLNL, which specializes in measuring ultralow concentrations of long-lived radioisotopes. AEED also supports the programs in energy and environmental security, nonproliferation, and the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC) and the DHS Inter-Agency Modeling and Atmospheric Assessment Center (IMAAC).

Solving Problems of National Importance

LLNL scientists develop methods to identify and distinguish nuclear explosions from earthquakes as illustrated in this example for the October 2006 North Korean nuclear test compared with a nearby earthquake recorded at station TJN. After filtering clear relative amplitude differences between the seismic phases such as Pn and Lg emerge.

Seismic Monitoring for Nuclear Nonproliferation. A major focus of AEED is nuclear explosion monitoring for the Ground-Based Nuclear Explosion Monitoring (GNEM) Program. The GNEM Program supports significant computational and archival systems that enable interactive measurement and analysis. We are developing a new elastic finite-difference code for parallel computation that will produce synthetic seismograms for three-dimensionally heterogeneous Earth models. Our work also includes signal processing, seismic-event location, earthquake-explosion discrimination, estimation of seismic velocity structure, computational seismology, and field seismology. We collaborate extensively with seismologists in the U.S. and abroad and have many strong collaborations with institutions in Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia.

One approach to help stem the increase of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is to capture it at the source and inject it into an underground formation.

Environmental Impacts of Energy Use. AEED's research and development encompasses the entire life cycle of energy use, from cradle to grave, and includes work on Yucca Mountain, reactors, and nuclear fuel cycles. Our work is focused on energy systems that meet our future energy services demand while not increasing the greenhouse gas burden of the atmosphere. As part of the Geophysical Detection/Proliferation Monitoring Program, we are focusing on what it will take to make nuclear power a viable option for our energy future, including safety, security, public perception, waste and economics.

LLNL has been involved in research for the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain since 1977, and has contributed to understanding the behavior of nuclear wasteforms in a geologic repository, predicting the corrosion behavior of waste package materials, and defining the chemical and physical environment of the waste packages. Our work currently focuses on modeling the drift- and mountain-scale thermo-hydrology of the candidate repository, and predicting the effects of earthquake-induced ground motion on the integrity of waste packages.

AEED's work on climate, water, energy and carbon sequestration integrates solutions to the coupled climate-energy-water problems. In particular, we are developing environmentally sensitive approaches to improved carbon sequestration and for carbon capture from energy systems. Our carbon-management program is exploring various technological options, such as geological storage, for carbon capture and storage that have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas releases to the atmosphere.

Livermore’s streakline model shows the flow of radionuclides over time as they are released from the melt glass and move away from the cavity of the Cheshire test at the Nevada Test Site.

Environmental Remediation and Monitoring. We conduct environmental remediation and monitoring efforts for the defense and global security programs. AEED supports the Marshall Islands Dose Assessment and Radioecology Program, which provides individual and environmental measurement data and dose assessments to characterize current radiological conditions and minimize the exposure of resettled and resettling populations in areas affected by U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands.

We also provide environmental support to national security programs through our work on the Underground Test Area Project (UGTA) at the Nevada Test Site. In this project, we are analyzing the fate and transport of radionuclides associated with underground testing of nuclear devices. This work involves the development of detailed computer models for the subsurface reactive transport of radionuclides and other species, as well as laboratory experiments on glass dissolution kinetics and radionuclide sorption.

Weapons Effects on Earth Materials. AEED research efforts in this area are focused on improving our current understanding of the response of geologic media to strong shock waves and on the interaction of those waves with underground structures. In recent years, we have also established a high-fidelity computational capability for simulating the effects of explosions on chemical and biological agents stored in bunkers. To conduct these simulations, we have developed three-dimensional, massively parallel computer codes that can accurately represent complex geologic features and that run on the Laboratory’s largest high-performance computing platforms.

Above left: NARAC laboratory. Above right: simulation of plume dispersion superimposed on actual plume.

National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC). AEED supports the NARAC/Inter-Agency Modeling and Atmospheric Assessment Center (IMAAC) Program, which provides critically needed information on the potential impacts of hazardous airborne releases. As part of an integrated national approach to prepare for and respond to high impact environmental events, NARAC/IMAAC provides federal, state, and local decision makers and emergency responders with information needed to make critical decisions on evacuation, sheltering, and treatment in order to save lives and mitigate consequences.

We have developed simulation tools that model the behavior of hazardous radiological/nuclear, chemical, biological, and natural releases on global, regional, or local scales. The resulting information is provided in the form of high-resolution geographical displays of hazard areas, affected populations, health effects, and protective action guides. AEED also provides subject matter experts for quality assurance, refined assessments, and product interpretation.

Groundbreaking Science

Global Climate Change Research. AEED supports DOE's Office of Science Climate Change Prediction Program, which coordinates research to advance the science of decadal and longer scale climate prediction. We conduct computer-based simulations of climate to understand and forecast potential climate changes at regional to global scales with an emphasis on the comparison of models to data, global climate model parameterization development, synoptic-to-global-scale numerical weather prediction, coupled carbon-cycle/climate model development, atmospheric radiative transfer, atmospheric chemistry and aerosol model development, and modeling of climate change impacts.

AEED also directs DOE's Office of Science Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI), established in 1989, to develop improved methods and tools for the diagnosis and intercomparison of general circulation models that simulate the global climate. Our current scientific projects focus on supporting model intercomparison, on developing a model parameterization testbed, and on devising robust statistical methods for climate-change detection/attribution. We are also developing software for data management, visualization, and computation; assembling/organizing observational data sets for model validation; and documenting climate model features.

CAMS hosts a number of instruments used for accelerator mass spectrometry, including the 10 MV FN tandem Van de Graaff accelerator (shown above), NEC 1 MV tandem accelerator, and NEC 1 MV tandem accelerator.

Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (CAMS). AEED supports CAMS, an institutional science facility that develops and applies state-of-the-art ion-beam analytical techniques to a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines. At this time, we are focused on advancing the applications of ion-beam techniques to biomedical sciences, continuing our sustainable significant contributions to earth and environmental sciences, and developing and applying AMS and accelerator capabilities for national security applications. Advances in spectrometer hardware coupled with an operational philosophy of around-the-clock operation have made CAMS the most versatile and productive facility of its kind in the world. CAMS performs more than 25,000 accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) measurements each year, quantifying the abundance of extremely low abundance, long-lived radiosotopes such as 14C, 41Ca, 10Be, 26Al, and 99Tc in materials ranging from biological tissues, to archeological artifacts, to rock samples..

The risk is high for another great quake in the San Francisco Bay Area. USGS predicts a 62-percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 or greater temblor occurring in the next 30 years on a major Bay Area fault. The fault with the highest probability of slipping in the next 30 years is the 90-kilometer-long Hayward–Rodgers Creek Fault, with a 27-percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 quake.

Earthquakes Hazard Research. AEED applies its expertise in geophysics, seismology, geophysical imaging, and geophysical/geological modeling to study earthquake hazards. Recently, AEED participated in a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) effort to simulate the ground motions generated by the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, to compare the results with observations and seismograms recorded at the time, and to examine future earthquake scenarios throughout the Bay Area. These simulation codes are now being used to help Bay Area government officials plan for future earthquakes.

Experimental Geophysics. AEED has expertise in rock and mineral physics, phase equilibria and equations of state, electrical conductivity, deformation, elastic phonon dispersion, wave propagation, reactive chemical transport, and spectroscopy. This expertise is applied to a wide range of applied and fundamental research efforts, including the development of high-pressure equations of state for metals, development of a better understanding of fluid flow through fractures in geological media, measurement and modeling the electrical conductivity of partially saturated rocks, and measurement and modeling of the reactions of CO2-bearing fluids with rocks.

Tarabay Antoun, AEED Division Leader (Acting) For more information, contact:

Tarabay Antoun
Division Leader
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Benjamin Santer

Benjamin Santer is one of the world’s leading scientists in the identification of anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change in both observations and climate model simulations. He has worked in the Laboratory’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) for 13 years, which, in his words, has given him “the opportunity to work together with world-class scientists at a world-class research institution. He is well renowned in the climate change research community and has contributed to several reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

His achievements include:

  • Pioneering use of novel pattern-based statistical techniques, called “fingerprint” methods, to identify human-caused changes in greenhouse gases and sulfate aerosol particles in observational surface temperature records.
  • Analysis of tropospheric temperatures and the height of the stratosphere-troposphere boundary, showing that accurate model simulations of climate change require inclusion of radiative forcing from human activities.
  • Contributions to the periodic Scientific Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In his career, Santer has received several honors, awards and fellowships including the “Genius Award” by the MacArthur Foundation, the DOE Distinguished Scientist Fellowship, and the E.O. Lawrence Award.

“Human-induced climate change will be one of the major problems confronting our nation – and the nations of the world – in the 21st century,” Santer said. “Ideally, governments will use the best-available scientific information to make rational decisions on appropriate policy responses to the climate change problem.