Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Earth, & Energy Science

Innovative science above, on, and below the planet’s surface

LLNL’s missions in national security, energy security, and fundamental science require robust, multidisciplinary research and development in atmospheric, Earth, and energy sciences.

Researchers in the Atmospheric, Earth, & Energy Division (AEED) continually innovate to support these missions to make the world safer, the environment cleaner, and our energy resources more sustainable.

Our key areas of research include seismology, geophysics, geomechanics, geochemistry, atmospheric dispersion, climate modeling and model intercomparison, climate change detection and attribution, and the hydrological and carbon cycles. We also improve and sustain advanced experimental and computational capabilities to better understand the complex interactions among energy production, energy utilization, and the environment.

Our scientists support the Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (CAMS) at LLNL, which specializes in measuring ultralow concentrations of long-lived radioisotopes, the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC), the US Department of Homeland Security’s Interagency Modeling and Atmospheric Assessment Center (IMAAC), as well as programs in energy and environmental security and nonproliferation.

Our mission is to integrate atmospheric, earth, and energy sciences in support of defense and global security. Explore this page to learn about the people, research, and resources that support our mission.


Graham Bench

Graham Bench

Division Leader

read Graham’s bio

Tom Brown

Tom Brown

Deputy Division Leader, Operations

read Tom’s bio

Joshua White

Joshua White

Deputy Division Leader, Science & Technology

read Joshua’s bio

Meet our team

Research Groups

An animation showing the spread of atmosphere through a city

Atmospheric Science Research and Applications

Predicting and assessing the fate and transport of hazardous materials in the environment

Group leader: Jessica Cruz

Our group is focused on the research and application of particle physics, multi-scale transport and diffusion, nuclear fallout and effects, event reconstruction, and emergency response. Our researchers apply atmospheric flow and transport modeling to national security and public protection to:

  • Provide consequence management products that assist in planning, response, and remediation
  • Develop and operationally use sophisticated atmospheric transport and dispersion models for emergency response and post-event analysis
  • Perform nuclear fallout, urban modeling, and uncertainty quantification research
  • Deliver new methods for communicating shelter quality and risk management information to decision makers
  • Support the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate and Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Defense

Our areas of expertise include atmospheric science, atmospheric transport and dispersion, uncertainty quantification, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense (CBRN) source terms.

A scientist adding a sample to a machine

Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry

Accelerating science for LLNL and the nation since 1988

Group leader: Ted Ognibene

Our scientists support the Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (CAMS) at LLNL. With our support, CAMS activities have broad-ranging scientific impacts while also contributing to LLNL mission needs. Scientists working at CAMS have:

  • Used diverse analytical techniques and state-of-the-art instrumentation to develop and apply unique, ultra-sensitive isotope ratio measurement and ion-beam analytical techniques to address a broad spectrum of scientific needs for the Laboratory and the nation.
  • Provided unique, cross-cutting, program support.
  • Delivered high-impact science, publications, and pipelines:
    • Our work has been featured on 16 journal covers.
    • We host ~60 researchers and students each year.
    • Over 30 students and postdocs at CAMS have become LLNL employees.
  • Invented BioAMS, which has served as a National Institute of Health-funded research resource for two decades.
  • Developed use of cosmogenic isotopes for studying Earth system processes.
  • Trained most of the scientists who are now working at AMS labs across the world, with many in leadership roles.
Cloud models

Climate Sciences

Integrating data and diagnostics into Earth system models

Group leader: Shaocheng Xie

Our group is a recognized leader in basic research into cloud processes, their diagnosis with observations, their parameterization and evaluation in climate models, and their response to climate change. Researchers in our group support major activities, including:

  • Improving the understanding of climate change through the development of novel techniques for model evaluation and observational data analysis as well as next-generation, high-resolution Earth system models.
  • Serving as the lead institution involved in developing the Department of Energy’s high-resolution Energy, Exascale, and Earth System Model (E3SM).
  • Developing objective analysis methods and diagnostic techniques used worldwide to assess model simulations of clouds and their response to environmental change.
  • Creating one of the world’s largest and most respected cloud-feedback research groups.
  • Serving in leadership roles for national and international professional societies.
  • Working closely with the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison, a world leader in the diagnosis of climate models, and the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM), a program that provides novel ground-based observations of clouds and related processes.
  • Publishing articles in Science, Nature, and other high-impact journals.

To learn about general climate research at LLNL, visit the Climate Program website.

A computer animation

Computational Geosciences

Unique software solutions for subsurface mechanics

Group leader: Eric Herbold

Our group develops and employs cutting-edge software to tackle challenging problems that require understanding and exploiting subsurface processes. A common theme in our work is the employment of novel algorithms on the world’s fastest supercomputers in order to deliver high-fidelity three-dimensional predictions that include a wide range of coupled physical effects. Our projects support a wide range of applications from energy to defense with national and worldwide significance. Our recent projects include:

  • Validating enhanced geothermal concepts deep in a retired gold mine
  • Improving our ability to monitor and detect underground detonations
  • Performing high-fidelity modeling and experiments investigating shock-loading of granular materials
A computer simulation of energy


Connecting energy and the environment

Group leader: A.J. Simon

Our group focuses on energy systems research, including efforts in wind energy, the energy–water nexus, and nuclear risk analysis. Our group consists of atmospheric and land surface modelers, nuclear engineers, and experimentalists who tackle a diverse portfolio of energy projects, including wind power forecasting, carbon capture and sequestration, geothermal reservoir management, advanced nuclear fuel cycle analysis, and resource utilization analyses. Our recent projects include efforts to:

  • Measure, model, and analyze the connections between energy systems and the planet’s subsurface, surface, and atmosphere, including:
    • Deploying field instruments and interpreting their data to better understand atmospheric flow and land–surface exchange.
    • Developing and running models that simulate the interactions between the atmosphere and the built environment.
    • Diagnosing and predicting the behavior of complex energy and environmental systems with statistical and machine-learning techniques.
    • Performing analysis of material and energy flows through natural and engineered systems.
  • Support uniquely interdisciplinary research and operational capabilities:
    • The Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) initiative leverages multiscale atmospheric science coupled to multiphysics turbine engineering models.
    • The National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC) predicts the fate and transport of nuclear material at the interface between the atmosphere and land surface.
    • Research on the energy–water nexus informs sustainable resource management policy.

Our work leads to collaborations with the following programs:

  • The Department of Energy’s Preventative Nuclear Detection Program
  • The Office of Nuclear Energy
  • The Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis
  • The Wind and Water Power Technologies Program
  • The Critical Materials Institute
  • The California Energy Commission

We also support LLNL’s nuclear forensics program, NARAC, and LLNL’s Global Security division’s energy and nuclear programs.

To learn about general water research at LLNL, visit the Water Research at LLNL website.

A computer simulation of the earth cut in half, showing the core


Seismological and geophysical expertise for national security

Group leader: Rengin Gok

Our group is comprised of over a dozen geophysicists who have expertise in source physics, Earth models, seismic tomography, earthquake location, and microseismicity. Our group’s state-of-the-art research takes advantage of the Lab’s world-class resources, including expertise in managing seismic databases, complex data analysis, and high-performance computing.

In supporting LLNL’s non-proliferation, national security, and energy missions, our researchers have:

  • Developed key methods, models, and software for explosion monitoring and forensics.
  • Created a high-resolution global 3D Earth model for accurate seismic event locations and tectonic interpretation.
  • Provided unique expertise to US policy makers, including support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, participation in expert panels, capacity building, and contributing authorship for National Academy and National Nuclear Security Administration reports on seismic monitoring.
  • Won numerous prestigious awards, including the Fulbright Scholarship and the E.O. Lawrence Award for Non-Proliferation.
A scientist works with an instrument

Porous Media

Advancements in multiphase flow and reactive transport

Group leader: Megan Smith

Our group has a broad range of experimental, computational, and fieldwork expertise related to fluid flow and reactive mass transport phenomena in subsurface and terrestrial environmental systems. We address coupled hydro-chemical-thermal-mechanical phenomena across multiple scales–from the laboratory scale to the field scale–relevant to both natural and engineered applications. We tackle challenges in this field using experimental methods, numerical modeling, and geophysical monitoring techniques. A few of our focus areas include:

  • Fate of gases and contaminants from underground nuclear tests
  • Design and safety of carbon storage reservoirs
  • Degradation of cements and polymers in challenging environments
  • Next-generation subsurface simulation software

In these efforts, we routinely interface with other discipline organizations from across the laboratory and from outside institutions in collaborative research, ultimately supporting multiple energy, environmental, and national security missions at LLNL.

Career Opportunities

We’re always looking for talented scientists to join our team.

Browse our open positions or read about our student research opportunities.

In the News

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Capabilities & Facilities

Our researchers utilize world-class scientific capabilities and modern high-performance computing facilities to support Laboratory programs. Listed below are LLNL’s state-of-the-art capabilities commonly used by our scientists.