Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

Computational Earth Science

We develop and apply a range of high-performance computational methods and software tools to Earth science projects in support of environmental health, cleaner energy, and national security.

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Providing realistic, data-driven models for improved prediction

The Computational Earth Science Group (EES-16) is composed of two teams, Subsurface Flow and Transport (SFT) team and Applied Terrestrial Energy and Atmospheric Modeling (ATEAM) team.

The Group is characterized by a combination of basic and applied research, leading to the development of novel and integrated modeling (including high performance modeling) and analysis capabilities that are utilized to address practical problems for sponsors including DOE, other federal agencies, and a variety of industries.

In the Los Alamos core mission area of Global Security, EES-16 contributes to nuclear nonproliferation projects characterizing gas migration from subsurface nuclear explosions through the subsurface as well as atmospheric radionuclide transport.

In the area of nuclear weapons effects, the HIGRAD/FIRETEC modeling capability is utilized to quantify the initiation and spread of an urban firestorm that could follow an urban nuclear detonation.

The SFT and ATEAM teams collaborate in a broad portfolio of projects in clean energy development, CO2 sequestration, hydraulic fracturing, sustainable unconventional fossil resource extraction, subsurface environment remediation and management, nuclear waste repositories, surface and subsurface hydrology, and geothermal energy.

In addition, the ATEAM team has projects in climate change and impacts, wildfire, and wind energy.

All the application areas utilize data analytics and data integration methods for uncertainty quantification and quantitative decision analysis and decision support.

Research directions

  • Clean energy (fossil energy and wind energy)
  • Climate-impact realization
  • Environmental management
  • Microscale, mesoscale, and global-scale atmospheric phenomenology
  • Nuclear explosion-induced atmospheric physics
  • Repository science for nuclear-waste disposal
  • Subsurface flow and transport in porous and fractured media
  • Wildfire and urban firestorm modeling and predictions

We focus on

  • Atmospheric modeling
    • Microscale, mesoscale, and global-scale atmospheric phenomena
    • Applying our award-winning HIGRAD/FIRETEC hydrodynamic software to diverse phenomena of wildland and urban fire propagation; and to aid development of better energy materials, such as stronger and more efficient wind turbines   
    • Modeling to simulate Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) signatures to characterize lightning and security threats (such as nuclear explosions)
  • Subsurface flow and transport processes — This work helps reveal how chemicals (such as nuclear waste) interact with the environment, age, and move throughout soil, rock, water.
    • Developing and applying models to predict flow and transport of multi-phase fluids in subsurface porous and fractured media
    • Improving geothermal and oil/gas extraction
Primary Expertise

Fossil Energy

  • We have R&D roles studying chemical and physical interactions to improve extraction efficiency, reduce water usage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We also develop process models, infrastructure optimization models, and risk/performance assessment tools to support critical national decisions.

High Performance Computing: Subsurface Flow and Transport

  • We develop advanced computational methods to model flow and transport in porous and fractured geologic media and coupled thermal-hydrologic-chemical-mechanical processes. In addition to numerical codes, Uncertainty Quantification (UQ) and Parameter Estimation (PE) are key EES-16 capabilities.

Wildfire, Regional Climate, and Wind Energy

  • Utilizing leadership-class parallel computers and advanced numerical methods, the HIGRAD/FIRETEC suite of codes enable detailed simulation of atmospheric dynamics and coupled atmospheric-wildfire interactions.

Other Critical Capabilities

  • Geologic characterization and numerical mesh generation support subsurface flow projects.
  • Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) simulation supports critical weapons phenomenology programs
Recent Major Projects
  • Arctic hydrology and permafrost modeling, LDRD
  • Characterization and remediation of the Nevada National Security Site Underground Test Area (UGTA)
  • Characterization and remediation of the LANL-specific issues for Environmental Programs (EP)
  • Fossil energy, CCUS (Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage), geothermal energy
  • Modeling wildfire behavior in collaboration with national and international partners
  • Underground repository science for nuclear waste disposal for the Used Fuel Disposition (UFD) Campaign