US Department of Energy announces $7 million in funding for climate research field studies

October 23, 2008

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science has selected four proposals with a total funding of $7 million, to conduct climate research field studies in 2010. Together, these field studies will obtain data from various cloud types -- cirrus, marine and mixed-phase (ice and water) -- to help improve the computer models that simulate climate change. As atmospheric scientists will attest, not all clouds are created equal. Solar radiation interacts differently with various clouds depending on the clouds' thickness, water content and particle sizes and shapes. Lately, microscopic airborne particles called "aerosols" have gained attention in the climate science community as another mystery in the mix, as they have been found to alter both the lifecycle and properties of clouds.

Through these field studies, scientists in DOE's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program will gather crucial data on the complex interplay between radiation, clouds and aerosols -- currently one of the main challenges in climate modeling. With three fixed research sites in key climate regimes around the world, plus two mobile facilities and aerial research platforms, ARM offers the world's most comprehensive 24/7 observational capabilities for obtaining atmospheric data for climate research.

"Field studies are critical for researchers to obtain specific kinds of data for analyzing cloud and aerosol properties and their behavior," said Wanda Ferrell, Program Director for DOE's ARM Climate Research Facility. "While our permanent sites provide continuous data critical for long-term records, we support field campaigns, which often include mobile facilities and aircraft measurements, to direct focused resources on a specific set of science problems. These data sets enable objective assessments of the potential for, and consequences of, climate change."

The four new research projects are: Although 2010 might seem far away, the scope and complexity of these types of research efforts are daunting from a planning perspective. This lead-time ensures that the scientific teams are fully prepared and it fosters collaboration with researchers at other organizations and agencies.

"The climate science community recognizes that cloud processes are the Achilles heel of climate model predictions," said Dr. Mace, who is also closely involved with related research for NASA. "Observations by ARM and NASA are key in addressing these shortcomings and the more observations we have, the more we learn. For instance, NASA's CloudSat team is very interested in the Storm Peak campaign for validating their precipitation and snowfall data. So, we are certainly looking forward to getting more collaborators on board for these experiments."
-end-
Funding for the field campaigns is subject to appropriation. The ARM Program is funded through the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. For more information about ARM Science and the ARM Climate Research Facility, visit: www.arm.gov.

DOE/US Department of Energy

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