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ORNL’s David Sholl is director of the new DOE Energy Earthshot Non-Equilibrium Energy Transfer for Efficient Reactions center to help decarbonize the industrial chemical industry. Credit: Genevieve Martin, ORNL/U.S. Dept. of Energy

ORNL has been selected to lead an Energy Earthshot Research Center, or EERC, focused on developing chemical processes that use sustainable methods instead of burning fossil fuels to radically reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions to stem climate change and limit the crisis of a rapidly warming planet.

The ORNL DAAC gathers, processes, archives and distributes information on key land processes, including the shifting ecological and geomorphological features of the U.S. Atchafalaya and Terrebonne basins gathered by the NASA Delta-X mission shown here. Credit: NASA Delta-X

In 1993 as data managers at ORNL began compiling observations from field experiments for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the information fit on compact discs and was mailed to users along with printed manuals.

Bob Bolton has spent much of his career studying environmental change in Alaska. He recently moved to East Tennessee to join the ORNL-led NGEE Arctic project as deputy for operations. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Bob Bolton may have moved to a southerly latitude at ORNL, but he is still stewarding scientific exploration in the Arctic, along with a project that helps amplify the voices of Alaskans who reside in a landscape on the front lines of climate change.

Researchers used the open-source Community Earth System Model to simulate the effects that extreme climatic conditions have on processes like land carbon storage. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Northeastern University modeled how extreme conditions in a changing climate affect the land’s ability to absorb atmospheric carbon — a key process for mitigating human-caused emissions. They found that 88% of Earth’s regions could become carbon emitters by the end of the 21st century. 

ORNL’s Fernanda Santos examines a soil sample at an NGEE Arctic field site in the Alaskan tundra in June 2022. Credit: Amy Breen, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Wildfires are an ancient force shaping the environment, but they have grown in frequency, range and intensity in response to a changing climate. At ORNL, scientists are working on several fronts to better understand and predict these events and what they mean for the carbon cycle and biodiversity.

Clouds of gray smoke in the lower left are funneled northward from wildfires in Western Canada, reaching the edge of the sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean. A second path of thick smoke is visible at the top center of the image, emanating from wildfires in the boreal areas of Russia’s Far East, in this image captured on July 13, 2023. Credit: NASA MODIS

Wildfires have shaped the environment for millennia, but they are increasing in frequency, range and intensity in response to a hotter climate. The phenomenon is being incorporated into high-resolution simulations of the Earth’s climate by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with a mission to better understand and predict environmental change.

This map illustrates the natural climate variability that affects the cold-season climate of the Central Southwest Asian region. Credit: Moetasim Ashfaq/ORNL

As extreme weather devastates communities worldwide, scientists are using modeling and simulation to understand how climate change impacts the frequency and intensity of these events. Although long-term climate projections and models are important, they are less helpful for short-term prediction of extreme weather that may rapidly displace thousands of people or require emergency aid.

Simulations performed on Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Summit supercomputer generated one of the most detailed portraits to date of how turbulence disperses heat through ocean water under realistic conditions. Credit: Miles Couchman

Simulations performed on the Summit supercomputer at ORNL revealed new insights into the role of turbulence in mixing fluids and could open new possibilities for projecting climate change and studying fluid dynamics.

Radu Custelcean's sustainable chemistry for capturing carbon dioxide from air has been licensed to Holocene. Credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

An innovative and sustainable chemistry developed at ORNL for capturing carbon dioxide has been licensed to Holocene, a Knoxville-based startup focused on designing and building plants that remove carbon dioxide

The research team poses in front of the airboat after a long day of research. Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

As a biogeochemist at ORNL, Matthew Berens studies how carbon, nutrients and minerals move through water and soil. In this firsthand account, Berens describes recent fieldwork in Louisiana with colleagues.