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Climate Change Science Institute

Advancing understanding of climate change and its impacts on human and natural systems

Climate change is a tangible reality that affects our daily lives. The past decade was the hottest on record, and startling increases in extreme events such as wildfires, hurricanes, and flooding are becoming commonplace. These events and other consequences of climate change, including frequent droughts and sea level rise, pose serious threats to communities, national security, and the economy.

The Climate Change Science Institute (CCSI) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is addressing these challenges by advancing our understanding of climate change and its impacts on human and natural systems. Formed in 2009, the institute is unique within the national laboratory system and across the nation.

CCSI brings together the multidisciplinary expertise and big science capabilities including world-class supercomputers required to predict the future of our changing planet and to evaluate potential solutions at the intersection of climate, clean energy, national security, and environmental justice.

CCSI fosters innovation and interdisciplinary approaches to climate science, focusing on the following areas.

  • Earth system modeling - Uses high-performance computing to advance modeling techniques, enabling Earth system models to operate at higher resolutions. Translates new knowledge of environmental processes into the existing Energy, Exascale, Earth System Model (E3SM) for greater predictive accuracy on finer geographic scales.
  • Data integration, dissemination, and informatics - Merges data from diverse sources and distributes them through single portals to a broad range of scientists and stakeholders interested in climate change information. Creates data management tools to facilitate science.
  • Integrative ecosystem science - Captures model-inspired measurements and observations from a range of biomes and biogeochemical processes, leveraging unique ecosystem-scale climate change experiments managed by ORNL. Uses these data to inform predictive models from local to global scales.
  • Impacts, adaptation, and community dynamics - Develops analysis tools and methods for assessing adaptation strategies at the intersection of climate science, energy use, and environmental justice. Provides data to stakeholders who must prepare community members and infrastructure for risks associated with climate change.
  • Pathways to net-zero carbon emissions - Uses artificial intelligence and high-performance computing to integrate data from diverse sources into regional Earth system models to determine decarbonization pathways and to inform mitigation strategies and technology development.