Research Highlights

Research Highlights

A stream classification system developed by ORNL researchers shows the influence of human activity on streams in the Eastern U.S. The map shows streams classified by their alteration status, highlighting the extent of networks that are impounded (magenta)

ORNL develops new capability to evaluate human-driven change in Eastern U.S. streams

July 25, 2018 — A stream classification system developed by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory can help assess physical changes to United States streams and rivers from human influences and aid in more effective management of water resources...

Plants—Surviving the heat

May 1, 2018 – A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory detailed the response and recovery of certain tree species after short-term, extreme weather events such as heat waves. Scientists exposed sets of four different saplings to dramatic temperature swings that peaked above 120 F, or...
Nanoscale spikes of carbon help catalyze a reaction that generates ammonia from nitrogen and water.

Novel reaction could spark alternate approach to ammonia production

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., May 2, 2018—The search for a more energy efficient and environmentally friendly method of ammonia production for fertilizer has led to the discovery of a new type of catalytic reaction. Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory used...

Taking the planet’s pulse: ORNL, NASA share latest data

As temperatures change, snow melts, and days grow longer across North America, a network of sensors captures these vital data, measuring key weather metrics that inform an array of scientific endeavors from wildlife biology to crop studies to modeling future environmental change....
CubeSat

Prepared for lift-off

Last November a team of students and educators from Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge and scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory submitted a proposal to NASA for their Cube Satellite Launch Initiative in hopes of sending a student-designed nanosatellite named RamSat into...
Adam Witt, left, and Mark Bevelhimer

Hydropower's future is small & modular

Harnessing the power of water is a practice that has been around for thousands of years, from the ancient Greeks’ use of waterwheels to grind wheat to today’s massive hydroelectric dams that supply power to millions of customers. But given the high price tag, potential environmental...
Emissions Infographic

Global Carbon Budget: Fossil fuel emissions and atmospheric CO2 on the rise

Global carbon emissions are on the rise again after three years of little growth. Emissions from fossil fuels are projected to rise 2% in 2017 to an all-time high driven largely by increased fossil fuel consumption in China and India according to the recently released Global Carbon Budget...

High-resolution modeling assesses impact of cities on river ecosystems

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Aug. 23, 2017 – New mapping methods developed by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory can help urban planners minimize the environmental impacts of cities’ water and energy demands on surrounding stream ecologies. In an analysis...
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Terrestrial Model Data Management

ORNL Environmental Sciences Division (ESD) researchers have been leading the data management component for the Multi-Scale Synthesis and Terrestrial Model Intercomparison Project (MsTMIP) project since 2010.  This team made contributions by working with the project team to provide a...
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The ORNL DAAC project is embarking on two new advances partnering with NASA

ACT America addresses three primary sources of uncertainty in the ability to infer carbon dioxide and methane sources and sinks - transport error, prior flux uncertainty and limited data density (hi-res image) NASA has planned an airborne campaign called the...

Vcmax Simulation and the Impact on Global Patterns

A major source of uncertainty in global gross primary production (GPP), and associated carbon cycle dynamics, is the calculation of maximum photosynthetic carboxylation rate (Vcmax) which is one of two plant traits that closely determines photosnthetic...

ORNL researchers study Southeast US wood pellet industry

With a growing volume of wood pellets being produced and shipped from the Southeast United States to Europe as a renewable energy source, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researchers recently took a look at the state of the industry and examined data on environmental impacts. Wood...
Switchgrass bales

UT-ORNL to Shepherd US-China Transdisciplinary Environmental Research Network

A new grant sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) will support an environmental research network designed to identify transdisciplinary research opportunities and collaborations for scientists in the United States and China working to achieve sustainable use of natural...
Alex Kholodov (University of Alaska, Fairbanks) uses an electric auger to prepare holes for water wells at NGEE Arctic Sites in Barrow, Alaska

Defrosting the World's Freezer: Thawing Permafrost

To enhance Earth system models, researchers are examining how and why permafrost thaws and melts. Snowy peaks rise up in one direction; boggy tundra spreads across the other. Fuzzy heads of long-stemmed plants sway in the wind, interspersed with bog blueberries. This is Alaska's Eight...
Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin

Simulating Extreme Storms over the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin

A numerical weather forecasting model (WRF) was used to simulate 120 storms over the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) river basin to explore the effect of climate change on probable maximum precipitation (PMP).   PMP is defined as the largest rainfall depth that could physically occur under...
Colleen Iversen and Shafer Powell- FRED database researchers

FRED database gathers root traits to advance understanding of belowground plant ecology

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) scientists have released a new global, centralized database of plant root traits, or identifying characteristics, that can advance our understanding of how the hidden structure of plants belowground may interact with and relate to life aboveground. The...
Reconciling food security and bioenergy: priorities for action

Reconciling food security and bioenergy: priorities for action

The top downloaded article in 2016 in the journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy was co-authored by Environmental Science Division members Keith Kline and Virginia Dale.  The article titled “Reconciling food security and bioenergy: priorities for action” shows how biofuels can...
Biofpr - Journal Cover 11:1, 2017

Estimating the size of economic activities and rural job opportunities in a corn stover bioeconomy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) recently conducted a study to quantify the required logistical resources to support the development of a corn stover bioeconomy. Corn stover was selected as it is the most abundant biomass residue in the USA due to the massive production of corn grain...
Root traits and nutrient competition approach explain NGEE-Arctic observations

Root traits explain observed tundra vegetation nitrogen uptake patterns: Implications for trait-based land models

Root traits and nutrient competition approach explain NGEE-Arctic observations Arctic warming will release substantial amounts of soil nitrogen that could potentially fertilize plant productivity. However, under the stress of microbial immobilization demand, the amount of nitrogen plants...

Biogeochemical Transformations at Critical Interfaces

Overview Anthropogenic releases and changing environmental conditions profoundly affect the biogeochemical cycling of trace metals such as mercury (Hg). Mercury can be methylated to form methylmercury, a neurotoxin that bioaccumulates in the food web, endangering humans and other biota....

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