Atmospheric, 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.


Brown, Tom
Tom Brown
White, Joshua A.

Research Groups

Cloud simulation amidst buildings

Atmospheric Science Research and Applications

Multiscale atmospheric solutions for defense, energy, nuclear security, and public safety

Group leader: Jessica Cruz

Our group applies techniques such as prognostic and diagnostic simulations, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and field experimentation to diverse atmospheric science challenges. Key areas of our research include:

  • Dispersion modeling: Source-term characterization, inverse modeling, urban transport, uncertainty quantification, atmospheric signatures of nuclear events, airborne disease transmission, and all-hazards shelter/evacuation response.
  • Wind energy: Downscaling atmospheric flow models, onshore and offshore wind characterization, field campaigns, wind farm–turbine wake interactions, and flow over complex terrain.
  • Fire dynamics and emissions: Model improvements for wildfire–atmosphere simulations in complex terrain and at urban interfaces, chemical/aerosol emissions, and wildfire precursors.
  • Whole-atmosphere dynamics: Simulations and observational field campaigns to understand stratospheric turbulence, aerosols, and gravity waves; whole-atmosphere and cloud characterization for vehicles in flight; and nuclear cloud rise and transport.
Lab worker handling test tube

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.
Globe model

Climate Sciences Section

Applying expertise in climate modeling, analysis, sensitivity, and impact to address critical national needs

Section leader: Shaocheng Xie

Group leaders:

The Climate Sciences Section is made up of three groups: Climate Analysis, Climate Modeling, and Climate Sensitivity and Impacts. Our section 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.

The Climate Science Section: 

  • Plays a leading role in developing the Department of Energy’s (DOE) High-Resolution Earth System Model (E3SM).
  • Demonstrates international leadership in:
    • Climate model intercomparison, evaluation, and analysis.
    • Cloud feedback, climate sensitivity, detection, and attribution of human impacts on Earth’s climate.
    • Model assessment and observational data analysis of cloud processes and their response to environmental change.
  • Expertly applies machine learning and climate modeling tools to climate resilience and impact studies.
  • Has led global efforts to standardize climate experimentation since 1989 through the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI).
  • Performs and communicates high-quality science research. Section researchers:
    • Serve as lead chapter-authors for every Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
    • Participate as chairs or members on international and national scientific committees.
    • Publish in ScienceNature, and other high-impact journals.
    • Earn a wide range of government and professional society awards and fellowships.

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

Computational Geosciences Unique software solutions for subsurface mechanics

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 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:

  • Applying methods and models from the geosciences to diverse applications across the Laboratory’s mission space.
  • Developing tools that enable real-time analysis and decision making for subsurface systems.
  • 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.
Wind direction and cloud interaction simulation

Energy and Carbon Management

Connecting energy and the environment

Group leader: George Peridas

Our group works to study and improve aspects of our energy system that serve climate change mitigation efforts and the public good. We act as a resource to advise and educate the government, communities, businesses, stakeholders, and other institutions on the technical, scientific, policy, environmental, and social aspects of carbon management technologies. Specifically, we focus on:

Carbon management

  • Rigorous bottom-up analyses of how governments, jurisdictions, and companies can achieve carbon neutrality. LLNL has produced such analyses for the state of California (“Getting to Neutral”), Microsoft Corporation, and is now focusing on a national analysis for the entire US. These studies apply systems analysis of integrated renewable, carbon-neutral, and carbon-negative technologies, transport, and geologic storage.
  • Supporting the development and deployment of specific carbon management solutions, projects, and technologies, including the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—in a manner that serves both the climate and the interests and needs of host communities.
  • Developing new hybrid approaches that synergistically combine renewable energy with other energy sources, carbon capture, and storage.

Energy and natural systems integration

  • Applying systems analysis to new energy production, transport, and storage projects.
  • Providing technical, economic, policy, and systems analysis support for carbon capture and storage, carbon removal, and other sustainable energy technologies in California and elsewhere.
  • Developing and analyzing energy-storage concepts, such as heat and hydrogen storage.
Woman working with lab equipment

Porous Media

Advancing the science and engineering of coupled chemistry, mechanics, and multi-phase flow in porous materials

Group leader: Megan Smith

Our group focuses on challenging problems involving both natural and engineered porous materials using experimental methods, numerical modeling, and geophysical monitoring techniques related to fluid flow and reactive transport. We address coupled hydro-chemical-thermal-mechanical phenomena across multiple scales from the laboratory to the field.

Additionally, the group’s work has national security, environmental management, energy, and climate mitigation applications. Examples include:

  • Studying the fate of gases and contaminants from underground nuclear tests.
  • Overseeing the design and operation of subsurface storage systems, such as those used for carbon or hydrogen.
  • Understanding cement and polymer degradation in extreme environments.
  • Developing next-generation subsurface simulation software.
  • Advancing multi-physics geophysical monitoring.

To accomplish our work, we routinely collaborate with other discipline organizations from across the Laboratory, as well as with external academic and industrial institutions.

Seismology Applying geophysical expertise to national and energy security problems


Applying geophysical expertise to national and energy security problems

Group leader: Arben Pitarka

Our group is comprised of over 18 earth scientists who have expertise in explosion and earthquake source physics, seismic source detection and discrimination, Earth models, seismic tomography, earthquake location, high-performance computing, engineering seismology, machine learning, data fusion, induced seismicity, and infrasound signals.

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

  • Develop key methods, models, and software for explosion monitoring, forensics, and seismic hazard assessment.
  • Create high-resolution global 3D Earth models for accurate seismic event locations and earthquake and explosions simulations.
  • Provide unique expertise to US policy makers, including support for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization and National Academy reports.
  • Receive prestigious awards, including the Fulbright Scholarship and the E.O. Lawrence Award for Non-Proliferation.
  • Hold leadership positions in professional societies, expert panels, and capacity building workshops.

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

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.