Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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

Applied Terrestrial, Energy, and Atmospheric Modeling

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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The Applied Terrestrial, Energy, and Atmospheric Modeling (ATEAM) team develops cutting-edge science and simulation capabilities to understand, quantify, and develop solutions for coupled climate-earth system challenges facing society.

Key application areas include:

  • wildfire behavior modeling
  • climate impacts on watersheds and ecosystems
  • the energy-water nexus
  • energy-related research including CO2 capture and storage, wind energy, geothermal exploration, and hydraulic fracturing
  • subsurface hydrology and contaminant migration

The ATEAM specializes in coupling multiple processes and feedbacks across a range of spatiotemporal scales, ranging from sub-meter processes across a single storm or fire event up to continental climate impacts through the 21st century.

Terrestrial Energy Atmospheric
Dynamic couple climate-ecosystem-hydrology modeling CO2 capture and storage (CCS) Transport and dispersion for multiple applications, including source characterization of greenhouse gas emissions
Landscape-scale fires in urban and natural environments Wind energy and turbine optimization Coupled wildfire/atmosphere behavior
Subsurface migration of gasses Geothermal exploration and risk analysis Regional climate impacts at high latitudes
Hydro-climatic extremes Carbon sequestration and reservoir modeling Turbulence in the atmospheric boundary layer and biosphere atmosphere interaction
Unconventional fossil fuels including shale gas and CO2-enhanced oil recovery
Key Projects
  • Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) initiative – Meso-to-Microscale Coupling: Develop a framework for coupling of mesoscale and microscale models (Large Eddy Simulation, LES) to improve the microscale representation of atmospheric turbulence for wind energy and dispersion phenomena applications.
  • Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Modeling: Atmospheric transport and dispersion modeling studies are applied to advancing understanding of how CO2 and CH4 emissions behave in the atmosphere. This work has aided in the interpretation of disparate observations by in-situ and remote-sensing instruments of known sources. Simulations have also contributed to research that detected anomalous methane concentrations from fugitive emissions.
  • Critical watersheds: Critical watersheds are watersheds that are critical to society (water, energy, food) and vulnerable to climate change. This project examines the impacts of climate-driven disturbances—drought mortality, wildfire, and insects/pathogens—on critical watersheds and the impact to society.
  • Integrated disturbance science (IDS): IDS is the science of understanding, quantifying, and developing predictive science-based solutions for climate-driven disturbances and the impacts to society.
  • Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE) Arctic: Better climate modeling via advanced understanding of coupled processes in Arctic terrestrial ecosystem.
  • Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE) Tropics: Modeling disturbance effects, such as vegetation thinning. Improve climate models through an enhanced understanding of vegetation energy budget and plant thermoregulation. Improve the understanding of stream biogeochemistry of rain forest ecosystems.
  • Underground Test Area (UGTA): The UGTA project, conducted by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), characterizes current groundwater contamination and produces model forecasts of the extent of future groundwater contamination at the former Nevada Test Site (now Nevada National Security Site or NNSS) where 928 underground nuclear explosions were conducted between 1957 and 1992, when the U.S. unilaterally adopted a testing moratorium.
  • Underground Nuclear Explosion Science Experiment (UNESE): UNESE uses locations at the NNSS to detect and characterize clandestine nuclear tests at suspected foreign test sites where site access is denied. ATEAM staff are applying subsurface numerical models to subsurface gas pressure data and field-scale gas tracer experiments to characterize subsurface flow and transport properties near selected underground U.S. tests. The field data and associated laboratory experiments allow gas transport algorithms in the models to be tested and refined, and reduce uncertainty in models being applied at suspected foreign sites.
  • Urban fire modeling: Investigate behaviors and impacts of large conflagrations in urban environment, caused by nuclear detonations, which can develop firestorms.
  • US-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) Advanced Coal Technologies Consortium (ACTC): CO2 capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) is a key technology in all major national and global climate mitigation policies. This project is significantly advancing CCUS technology in both China and the United States including advanced power generation, collaboration and knowledge sharing on a large-scale demonstration projects, CO2 utilization and storage, and system analysis and modeling.
Software and Simulation Tools
  • Amanzi Advanced Terrestrial Simulator (Amanzi-ATS) - framework for solving ecosystem-based, integrated, and distributed hydrology. The Amanzi-ATS framework is specifically designed to manage model complexity for integrating surface/subsurface thermal hydrology models including plant dynamics. Capabilities are largely based on solving various forms of Richards equation coupled to a surface flow equation, along with the sources and sinks for ecosystem and climate models. This includes thermal processes (ice for frozen soils), evapotranspiration, albedo-driven surface energy balances, snow, biogeochemistry, and plant dynamics.
  • FEHM - The FEHM (Finite Element Heat and Mass) code developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory simulates the subsurface flow and transport of multiphase fluids (water, air and CO2), heat and solutes in porous and/or fractured media. Solutes can undergo reactions with other dissolved or gaseous species, as defined by the user. The FEHM code is currently being applied to a wide variety of problems vital to national security, including CO2 sequestration, environment clean-up and non-proliferation.
  • HIGRAD/FIRETEC/WindBlade - a high-fidelity coupled atmosphere-fire model designed for landscape scale (up to tens of kilometers). HIGRAD is a fully-compressible atmospheric hydrodynamics model that is applied to a wide range of atmospheric phenomena: catastrophic space shuttle accidents and subsequent effluents, coupled wildfire/atmosphere behavior, urban fire and dispersion, coupled atmosphere/vegetation heat and gas exchange for ecosystem modeling, hurricane intensification, coupled turbine/wind interaction in wind energy contexts, and fugitive gas/particulate matter dispersion. FIRETEC extends HIGRAD capabilities to address landscape-scale fire problems. FIRETEC integrates physics modules that represent combustion, heat transfer, aerodynamic drag, and turbulence with HIGRAD hydrodynamics to represent airflow and its adjustments to terrain, different types of fuel (vegetation or building materials), and the fire itself. WindBlade is another extension of HIGRAD that models wind turbine wakes, aerodynamic load and performance of wind turbines in a wind farm.
  • Model Analysis ToolKit (MATK) - a python package that performs parameter studies, designs of computer experiments, uncertainty quantification, calibration, and other model analyses. MATK provides functionality to drive external simulators or sequences of simulators and is therefore simulator agnostic. MATK executes simulations concurrently on computer resources ranging from laptops to high performance computing resources.
  • RAREDGE - a python-based software program designed to understand and quantify risk associated with geothermal exploration and production. RAREDGE incorporates site-specific data including a geological framework model, down-well temperature profiles and material parameters such as permeability and porosity (and their associated uncertainties to model resource properties). Results are visualized in the open-source Paraview software.
  • SimCCS - an economic-engineering framework for optimizing CCS infrastructure decisions including where, how, and when to capture, transport, and inject/store CO2.

Team Members

Katrina Bennett Thumbnail
Katrina Bennett

(Team Leader)
  • Hydrology
  • Climate change impacts
  • Landscape disturbance processes
  • Changing precipitation, rain, and snow processes
  • Remote sensing of hydrology and snow
  • Modeling regional scale hydrological systems
  • Statistical approaches
  • Uncertainty and sensitivity analysis
  • LANL Profile
  • Google Scholar
Adam Atchley Thumbnail
Adam Atchley

(Research Scientist)
  • Multi-process ecohydrological modeling and integration of fire disturbance, permafrost degradation, and reactive transport into physical numerical models
  • Incorporating field observations and measurements into process rich model development
  • LANL Profile
Tirtha Banerjee Thumbnail
Tirtha Banerjee

(Postdoctoral Researcher)
  • Wall bounded and atmospheric boundary layer turbulence, modeling turbulence driven biosphere-atmosphere interaction, disturbance effects such as vegetation-canopy heterogeneity and complex topography
  • Wildfire modeling
  • Energy balance studies of vegetation and atmospheric surface layer
  • Wetland greenhouse gas emissions
  • Turbulence in water bodies and aquatic vegetation
  • LANL Profile
  • Google Scholar
Kay Birdsell Thumbnail
Kay Birdsell

(Technical Project Manager)
  • Leading studies of complex environmental sites
  • Conceptual site model development
  • Computational hydrogeology for subsurface flow and contaminant/radionuclide transport
  • Performance assessment of radioactive waste disposal sites
  • Vadose-zone hydrology
  • Vapor plume characterization
  • LANL Profile
  • Google Scholar
Michelle Bourret Thumbnail
Michelle Bourret

(Research Technologist)
  • Modeling of groundwater flow
  • Radionuclide gas migration in the vadose zone
  • Alterations to granular salt following heat-generating waste emplacement
  • Model calibration
  • LANL Profile
Bailian Chen Thumbnail
Bailian Chen

(Postdoctoral Researcher)
  • Reservoir modeling and simulation
  • Uncertainty quantification and value-of-information assessment
  • Monitoring optimization and risk assessment for CO2 geologic sequestration
  • Optimization of CO2 injection for enhanced oil recovery
  • Inverse problem
  • LANL Profile
  • Google Scholar
Min Chen
Min Chen
(Research Technologist)
  • Spatial pattern analysis on arctic snow distribution
  • Temporal trend and spatial pattern in Thermokarst lake area
  • Google Scholar
Keeley Costigan Thumbnail
Keeley Costigan

(Research Scientist)
  • Numerical modeling and analysis of dynamic processes in the atmospheric boundary layer, including transport and diffusion to characterize and track emissions
  • LANL Profile
Dylan Harp Thumbnail
Dylan Harp
(Research Scientist)
  • CO2 sequestration wellbore integrity and leakage modeling and risk analysis
  • Permafrost thaw and arctic hydrology modeling
  • Radionuclide gas migration modeling and risk analysis
  • LANL Profile
  • Google Scholar
Troy Holland
Troy Holland
(Postdoctoral Researcher)
  • Simulation of atmospheric-coupled, large-scale firestorms
    • Fire induced fluid dynamics behavior
    • Impact of complex topography on fire behavior
    • Combustion chemistry modeling
Marlin Holmes
Marlin Holmes
(Graduate Student)
  • Simulation of wildfire physics utilizing FIRTEC model
    • Code verification and validation
    • Code development and debugging
    • Turbulence theory and modeling
  • Experimental verification and validation (V&V) of complex flows
    • Design and execute turbulent fluid flow experiments
    • Develop V&V data set for complex fluid flow models
  • Google Scholar
Elchin Jafarov Thumbnail
Elchin Jafarov

(Postdoctoral Researcher)
Alexandra Jonko Thumbnail
Alexandra Jonko

(Postdoctoral Researcher)
  • Wildfire-climate interactions
  • Climate feedback quantification
  • Bayesian statistics and reduced-order models of climate
  • LANL Profile
  • Google Scholar
Alexander Josephson Thumbnail
Alexander Josephson

(Graduate Student)
  • Combustion processes
  • Soot particle formation
  • Secondary pyrolysis of complex-solid fuels
  • Model calibration
  • Bayesian statistics
  • Wood chemistry, pulp and paper
  • LANL Profile
Eunmo Koo Thumbnail
Eunmo Koo

(Research Scientist)
  • Coupled atmospheric phenomena modeling, including wildfire behavior and risk assessment, urban fire spread and impact of firestorms, wind turbine wake structures, and fugitive gas and particulate matter dispersion
  • LANL Profile
  • Google Scholar
Edward Kwicklis Thumbnail
Edward Kwicklis

(Research Scientist)
  • Groundwater modeling, calibration, and uncertainty analyses
  • Groundwater geochemistry and isotopes
  • Subsurface gas flow and transport
  • Infiltration and recharge
  • Fracture network modeling and calibration
  • LANL Profile
  • Google Scholar
Rod Lin Thumbnail
Rod Linn

(Research Scientist)
  • Coupled atmospheric-phenomena modeling: Landscape-scale fire behavior (wildfires, prescribed fire, large urban conflagrations, particularly the coupled interaction between fires and surrounding atmosphere
  • Interaction between ambient winds and wind turbine wake structures
  • Fugitive gas and particulate matter dispersion
  • LANL Profile
  • Google Scholar
Daniel Livingston Thumbnail
Daniel Livingston
(Research Technologist)
  • Delaunay triangulation quality on meshes
  • Software development centered around LaGrit and PyLaGrit
  • Unit testing and development on MADS
Laura Mazzaro Thumbnail
Laura Mazzaro

(Graduate Student)
  • Multiscale modeling of atmospheric flows
  • Mesoscale-to-microscale coupling of atmospheric models
  • Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model
  • Large Eddy Simulations (LES)
  • Boundary-layer meteorology
  • Modeling of atmospheric boundary layer turbulence
  • LANL Profile
John Ortiz Thumbnail
John Ortiz

(Post Masters Student)
  • Multiphase numerical simulation of subsurface flow and transport
  • Underground nuclear testing / radionuclide gas migration
  • Chemical waste (VOC) transport
  • Reduced-order predictive models of subsurface gas transport
  • Model calibration and validation using field and lab experiments
  • LANL Profile
  • Google Scholar
Kurt Solander Thumbnail
Kurt Solander

(Postdoctoral Researcher)
  • Hydrologic modeling
  • Remote sensing
  • Energy-water nexus
  • Ecosystem-hydrologic response
  • Biocrop modeling
  • Tropical ecosystem hydrology
  • Hydro-climatic extremes
  • LANL Profile
  • Google Scholar
Phillip Stauffer Thumbnail
Philip Stauffer
(Research Scientist)
  • Simulation of complex subsurface multiphase heat and mass transport
    • Nuclear waste (WIPP, YMP, LANL)
    • Carbon sequestration
    • Underground nuclear testing
    • Chemical waste (VOC)
  • Design of field and lab experiments to validate conceptual and numerical models
  • Risk Analysis and Performance Assessment (GoldSim, NRAP)
  • LANL Profile
  • Google Scholar
Judy White Thumbnail
Judy White

(Research Scientist)
  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Parallel computing software
  • Data assimilation, manipulation, post-processing, analysis, and visualization
  • LANL Profile
Sean Yaw Thumbnail
Sean Yaw

(Postdoctoral Researcher)
  • Infrastructure network design
  • Optimization algorithms
  • Carbon capture and storage
  • Energy resource management
  • LANL Profile
  • Google Scholar