Earth Sciences Division (ESD) Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)
Bill Collins and computational researcher Michael Wehner

Climate and Carbon Sciences Program Area

Research Mission is to...Advance the understanding and prediction of multiscale climate dynamics, abrupt and extreme climate events, terrestrial feedbacks to climate change, and their impacts on energy and water resources.


The global carbon cycle strongly regulates Earth's climate, while anthropogenic disturbance of the carbon cycle is the main cause of current and predicted climate change. At the same time, humans depend on the terrestrial carbon cycle for food, fiber, energy, and pharmaceuticals. The Climate and Carbon Sciences Program Area encompasses both atmospheric and ecosystem processes, seeking to improve understanding of climate forcing, ecosystem-climate feedbacks, and ecosystem goods and services like biofuel production, carbon sequestration, and climate change adaptation. The Program Area is focused around a set of interrelated goals, and integrates a wide range of expertise and tools, to conduct fundamental science and to improve predictive climate models.

ESD scientists run the Berkeley Lab ARM Carbon Project at the DOE Southern Great Plains Climate Research Facility, one of the best-instrumented sites for regional carbon studies in the world, and have research experiments on three continents focused on soil carbon storage and turnover. This Program Area takes advantage of ESD’s strengths in climate modeling, including new development and application of fully coupled land surface-climate models. These models make possible increasingly robust predictions of climate extremes, abrupt climate change, and integrated climate-land use-energy systems.

Research in this Program Area is also highly aligned with the Environmental and Biological Systems Sciences Program Area, because the effects of climate change on biological systems (and vice versa) requires consideration of bedrock-through-atmospheric processes.

Bill Collins and computational researcher Michael Wehner

Program Area Leads

William (Bill) Collins | | 510-495-2407

Margaret S. Torn | | 510-495-2223


Atmospheric Systems Research Program

Margaret S. Torn | | 510-495-2223

This program’s focus is to improve understanding of surface atmosphere exchanges of carbon, water, and energy, and their roles in ecosystem-climate interactions, as well as to quantify the convective transport of CO2, water, mass, and momentum through:

  • Observing the direct radiative effect of CO2 on climate;
  • Identifying the indirect effect due to carbon cycle constraints on surface water, carbon, and energy fluxes;
  • Developing and improving methodology for observing and detecting these effects, and how they change over time.

Success in the projects assessing the carbon components affecting the climate will lead to improved models for predicting ecosystem carbon fluxes, ecosystem-climate feedbacks, and radiative forcing of climate by greenhouse gases and aerosols. Key sponsors and resources for this program include DOE-BER Atmospheric System Research Program, the ARM Climate Research Facility, and databases at ARM, NOAA, AmeriFlux, and Fluxnet.

Climate Modeling Program

William (Bill) Collins | | 510-495-2407

This program aims to develop global process-resolving models to help quantify the roles of climate feedbacks in anthropogenic climate change. Abrupt and extreme climate changes from anthropogenic warming pose some of the greatest risks to society and the environment. Understanding of the complex interactions involved with feedbacks is critical. Questions to solve through improved modeling: How do the hydrological cycle, and water resources, interact with the climate system on local to global scales? How do biogeochemical cycles interact with global climate change? How do rapid changes in cryospheric systems interact with the climate system? How do short-term variations in natural and anthropogenic radiatively active atmospheric constituents interact with natural variability and contribute to regional and global environmental change? The key sponsors of this research are the DOE-BER Climate and Earth System Modeling Program and DOE’s Office of Advanced Scientific Computing.

Terrestrial Ecosystem Science Program

Margaret S. Torn | | 510-495-2223

This program’s focus is to understand and explain mechanisms and processes controlling primary production, carbon cycling, and soil biogeochemistry; the impacts of disturbance on terrestrial ecosystems; and ecosystem feedbacks to climate in vulnerable environments. In addition, it seeks to establish and maintain environmental field observatories. An accurate understanding of soil processes is critical for predicting climate-ecosystem feedbacks, attributing global CO2 sinks between land and ocean, and optimizing mitigation via biofuels and sequestration. Long-standing gaps in process-level understanding make the role of soils in global change highly uncertain. In our current projects (TES SFA, NGEE Arctic, and NGEE Tropics), we address these gaps by conducting basic experimental, observational, and numerical research with a focus on terrestrial biogeochemistry and climate feedbacks. Success will provide us with accurate process-level understanding of the controls of soil carbon turnover and stocks, and useful predictions of soil carbon response to climate change and land-use change. The key sponsor of this program is the DOE-BER Terrestrial Ecosystem Program.