EAS Spring 2019 Seminar Series Presents Dr. Cari Dutcher, University of Minnesota

Atmospheric aerosols are one of the major contributing factors to our climate, yet are a leading source of uncertainty in climate modeling. Part of this uncertainty arises from the complex nature of individual aerosol particles: the composition and phase of aerosol particles evolve dramatically with changes in the ambient environmental conditions. The resultant composition and phase inform the particle’s optical properties, species uptake and partitioning, and activation to cloud condensation or ice nuclei. 

In this talk, recent advancements using analytic thermodynamic modeling and laboratory microscale flows will be highlighted for aerosol droplet systems, towards improved understanding of the properties and phase of aerosols in our atmosphere. 

First, statistical thermodynamic approaches will be presented for determining particle surface tension, composition, and surface-to-bulk partitioning in aerosols across the full range of relative humidity. 

Second, novel methods for measuring the interfacial tension, viscosity, and phase of atmospheric aerosol droplets and chemical mimics will be introduced using droplet microfluidic contractions, traps, and wells. 

The talk will end with broader implications for the use of the modeling and microscale flows for study of complex emulsions, for improved liquid-liquid separation.

Event Details

Date/Time:

EAS Fall 2018 Seminar Series Presents Dr. Andrew Ault, University of Michigan

Dropping Acid in the Atmosphere: Is It Just a Phase:

Atmospheric aerosols are incredibly complex chemical systems with thousands of species present in yoctoliter to attoliter volumes, which makes measuring their chemical and physical properties an analytical challenge. 

Despite these instrumental demands, measuring aerosol properties is essential, as air pollution leads to 10% of global deaths annually, primarily due to the effects of atmospheric particles. These aerosols are also the most uncertain aspect of radiative balance leading to climate change. 

The Ault Laboratory is focused on understanding the complex heterogeneous and multiphase chemistry occurring within aerosols systematic physical chemistry studies, the development of new analytical methods, and measurements of complex systems in that atmosphere. We conduct these studies this through a combination of spectroscopy, microscopy, and mass spectrometry techniques. 

This seminar will focus on the acidity of atmospheric aerosols, the influence of phase and morphology on atmospheric particles, and uptake of low volatility gases through viscous films. Additional projects in the Ault group probe organic material from harmful algal blooms in the atmosphere, engineered nanoparticle modification in the gastrointestinal tract, and reactions on indoor surfaces. 

With our novel analytical methodologies, the Ault Laboratory is providing fundamental molecular insights into the chemistry occurring within atmospheric aerosols that have significant consequences for human health and global climate.

Event Details

Date/Time:

The Student Government Association's “Revolutionaries” series is intended to inspire Georgia Tech students with the most accomplished and distinguished members of our faculty, and to learn about the path they have taken to become pioneers in their respective fields.

Those attending will be given the chance to learn what motivated and drove them to where they are now. As the leaders of tomorrow, it is important for students to see how someone who is successful in his or her endeavors got started, and how they can replicate that process to someday make their own revolutionary contributions.

The series will feature:

  • Nov. 28: Ashok Goel and Mostafa El-Sayed
    6 p.m., Historic Academy of Medicine
  • Dec. 3: Younan Xia and Kim Cobb
    6 p.m., Historic Academy of Medicine

Event Details

Date/Time:

November 14, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

Trillions of cubic feet of natural gas is thought to lie in cold storage within Earth’s permafrost and under its oceans. That gas, however, is trapped within chemical cage-like structures called methane clathrates. Scientists are very interested in these structures, because they may have cousins hidden under the surface of the icy moons in the outer solar system.

Whether the clathrates are on Earth or the Jovian moon Europa, science wants to know: What role did microbes play in their formation and stability? How are they involved when Earthbound clathrates start deteriorating, releasing this greenhouse methane gas into an already-warming global atmosphere? Is that process underway millions of miles from Earth?

An interdisciplinary team of Georgia Tech geo-microbiologists, biochemists, and geo-engineers will have a chance to answer those questions, thanks to a grant from the NASA Exobiology Program that comes with a heady title: Microbial Interactions with Methane Clathrate: Implications for Habitability of Icy Moons. The investigators, which include College of Sciences researchers, will search for DNA blueprints of potential clathrate-binding proteins, will reproduce those proteins in a laboratory, and will test their impact on methane clathrate properties. 

“This is a truly interdisciplinary project to understand how microbial life survives in methane clathrates under the seafloor,” says Jennifer Glass, assistant professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. Glass will serve as the team’s principal investigator.

“These deep microbes encode genes that are different from any found on the Earth's surface,” Glass says. “This grant will be one of the first efforts to study the biochemistry of these new biomolecules, and how they affect the structure and properties of methane clathrate. This research is only possible because our Georgia Tech team is uniquely working at the interface between microbial ecology, biochemistry, and geoengineering."

Clathrates are lattice-like structures made of a solid similar to ice. They are buried in polar permafrost and under the world’s oceans, and scientists believe they could hold anywhere from 100,000 to 1 million Tcf (trillion cubic feet) of natural gas. The gas molecules are trapped inside the crystalline structures, but large-scale commercial extraction isn’t available yet. However, plumes of methane have been recorded leaking from Arctic permafrost thanks to global warming. (Methane is already produced via decaying organic matter in landfills, traditional oil and gas exploration, and within the stomachs of domestic livestock.)

Visits from planetary probes, spectroscopy readings, and other research indicate that methane clathrates may exist on the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. They may be part of developing ecosystems. Did microbes interact with those clathrates? Could they be tapped in the search for life in the solar system? Could those gas resources help sustain human habitats on the Jovian moon Europa?

"We are excited to learn more about the fascinating molecules that bind methane ice in this unique environmental niche,” says Raquel Lieberman, professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and one of the methane clathrate team members. “These proteins don’t look like any others known in temperate environments."

In addition to Glass and Lieberman, other team members include research scientist Anton Petrov and Professor Loren Williams, both with the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry; and Sheng Dai, assistant professor in the School of Civil and Environmental EngineeringAbbie Johnson, an EAS graduate student in the Ocean Science & Engineering Program, will work on the project for her doctoral dissertation. 

Glass has a courtesy appointment with the School of Biological Sciences. She also is on the faculty of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences.

 

IDEaS Short Talks and Networking Social
 
”Predicting How Social-Ecological Systems Respond to Climate Forcing"” by Emanuele Di Lorenzo

Monday, November 19, 2018
Part of Two Short 30-MinuteTalks from 2-3 pm
Networking Social from 3-3:30 pm
Technology Square Research Building (TSRB) Auditorium
(You are welcome to attend any part of these events as your schedule permits.)
 
IDEaS is running a series of short talks to learn about research across the Georgia Tech campus. The presentations are from broadly different topics and accessible to those in other research areas. Come chat with colleagues and learn more about what’s new in Data Science! 
 
Emanuele Di Lorenzo
Professor in the School of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences 
Georgia Institute of Technology
2:30 - 3:00 pm
 
”Predicting How Social-Ecological Systems Respond to Climate Forcing"
 
Abstract: Modeling and predicting the response of social-ecological-environmental systems (SEES) to external perturbations like climate forcing is complex because of the assumption that both climate and social-ecological dynamics are characterized by large degrees of freedom, and that relationships are highly non-linear. But what if that was not true? What if we could develop models that keep track only of the dominant underlying dynamics of the SEES? In the climate community, we are developing advanced model of the earth system that can resolve environmental changes almost at the human scale (~10km) generating PB of information. However, the link between these earth system model and models of the social-ecological dynamics are still an impossible challenge limiting our ability to generate integrated understanding and to predict how SEES respond to climate forcing. This is not only due to the large dimensionality of the social-ecological systems but also because of the uncertainties that exist in defining the fundamental equation of the SEES dynamics. Under the assumption that statistical data-driven models can potentially bridge the gap between climate, ecological and social dynamics, and potentially extract low-dimensional relationship that capture most of the evolution of a given SEES, I will present a few case studies that I would like to explore with colleagues at Georgia Tech using novel approaches in data science.

Bio: Dr. Emanuele Di Lorenzo is Professor and Director of the Program in Ocean Science and Engineering (http://www.ocean.gatech.edu) at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, USA. His research interests are in the field of multi-scale climate and ocean dynamics (large-scale, regional and coastal), climate impacts on marine ecosystems and social-ecological systems. In his research, Dr. Di Lorenzo attempts to explain the dominant (e.g. low order) dynamics of the ocean and marine ecosystem variability and change by combining available observations with a hierarchy of numerical models (e.g. dynamical and statistical) of ranging complexity. Dr. Di Lorenzo also serves as the Vice-Chair of Science Board for the North Pacific Marine Science Intergovernmental Organization (PICES) and as Chair of their Physical Oceanography and Climate committee. He is also co-chair of the US CLIVAR Phenomena, Observations, and Synthesis Panel and a member of Future Earth Ocean Knowledge Network. Recently, he has led the new OceanVisions joint initiative between Georgia Tech, Stanford, Scripps and Smithsonian (www.oceanvisions.org).

 

 

Event Details

Date/Time:

Ocean Science and Engineering Presents Dr. Emanuele Di Lorenzo

Linking Climate Extremes and SocialEnvironmental Dynamics: a trans-disciplinary pathway to enable climate solutions”

As a results of climate change, most environmental systems are experiencing an increase in regional climate and weather extremes that have profound social-ecological implications. 

An example is the set of climate extremes between 2013-2016 that resulted in one of the longest droughts over California, record-breaking warm surface temperatures in the North Pacific that disrupted marine ecosystems and fisheries (e.g. the Pacific Warm Blob), some of the coldest ocean temperatures ever recorded in the western North Atlantic, and the 2015-16 El Niño – which is one, if not the, largest climate event of the century. 

Here we show that these extremes are not independent but rather connected to specific large-scale ocean-atmosphere decadal fluctuations that originate from the coupling between tropical and extra-tropical climate dynamics, which some earth-system models predict are intensifying in a warmer climate. Most concerning is the evidence that ecological-environmental systems may amplify the variance of these decadal fluctuations. 

By combining an empirical stochastic model with long-term climate and ecosystems observations, we show how societally-relevant ecological systems that sustain ocean food production amplify the climate forcing. In the model, this climate amplification leads to the observed tendency for stronger synchrony across ecological systems with global-scale climate signals. 

This alignment of the ecological responses may lead to “ecosystem collapses” that increase the vulnerability of socialenvironmental systems that rely on ecosystem resources. These issues are particularly relevant in systems and communities wherein the human and natural dimensions strongly interact. 

To this end, we outline some novel approaches that rely on transdisciplinary research and multi-institutions partnerships to enable a wide-range of solutions to the growing climate threats.

Event Details

Date/Time:

Ocean Science and Engineering presents Dr. Emanuele Di Lorenzo

“Linking Climate Extremes and SocialEnvironmental Dynamics: a trans-disciplinary pathway to enable climate solutions”

As a results of climate change, most environmental systems are experiencing an increase in regional climate and weather extremes that have profound social-ecological implications. 

An example is the set of climate extremes between 2013-2016 that resulted in one of the longest droughts over California, record-breaking warm surface temperatures in the North Pacific that disrupted marine ecosystems and fisheries (e.g. the Pacific Warm Blob), some of the coldest ocean temperatures ever recorded in the western North Atlantic, and the 2015-16 El Niño – which is one, if not the, largest climate event of the century. 

Here we show that these extremes are not independent but rather connected to specific large-scale ocean-atmosphere decadal fluctuations that originate from the coupling between tropical and extra-tropical climate dynamics, which some earth-system models predict are intensifying in a warmer climate. 

Most concerning is the evidence that ecological-environmental systems may amplify the variance of these decadal fluctuations. By combining an empirical stochastic model with long-term climate and ecosystems observations, we show how societally-relevant ecological systems that sustain ocean food production amplify the climate forcing. 

In the model, this climate amplification leads to the observed tendency for stronger synchrony across ecological systems with global-scale climate signals. This alignment of the ecological responses may lead to “ecosystem collapses” that increase the vulnerability of socialenvironmental systems that rely on ecosystem resources. These issues are particularly relevant in systems and communities wherein the human and natural dimensions strongly interact. 

To this end, we outline some novel approaches that rely on transdisciplinary research and multi-institutions partnerships to enable a wide-range of solutions to the growing climate threats.

Event Details

Date/Time:

November 1, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

NASA Astrobiology Program awards $7 million to Georgia Tech-led Oceans Across Space and Time alliance to intensify the search for life in our solar system’s present and past oceans

NASA has navigated our solar system with spacecraft and landers, but still, our celestial neighbors remain vast frontiers, particularly in the search for life. Now, an alliance of researchers will accelerate the quest to find it.

The NASA Astrobiology Program has announced the establishment of the Network for Life Detection, NFoLD, which connects researchers to pursue the detection of life and clues thereof on our neighboring planets and their moons. NFoLD includes an oceanic research alliance led by the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

It is called Oceans Across Space and Time, OAST, and has received a $7 million NASA Astrobiology grant with the long-range goal of extracting secrets from present and past oceans on Mars, Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. But OAST will also ramp up the study of the conditions that spawned first life in Earth’s oceans.

“With OAST, we finally hit the perfect mix of people, science questions, and supporting activities to really go after some of the most important unknowns in astrobiology,” said Britney Schmidt, OAST’s principal investigator and an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

NFoLD is one of five new Research Coordination Networks that the NASA Astrobiology Program has announced. The other RCNs pull together research communities that include the study of early Earth and its chemistry, evolution, distant habitable worlds, and exoplanet systems.

Yellow submarine on Europa 

Oceans Across Space and Time could one day help NASA put a submarine on a rocket to Europa to look for life in the ocean beneath its ice crust. Or OAST could join NFoLD colleagues to help NASA explore parched Martian landscapes that once were oceans.

But the path to our space neighbors leads through studying Earth. Field and lab experiments on our planet will divulge more knowledge about chemical and biological evolutionary strategies so that researchers can develop instruments and methodology that reliably detect signs of life on other planets and moons.

"We don't yet have a slam-dunk measurement that we could make on another planet to definitively say ‘this is life,’” said Schmidt, who coordinates OAST and led the application efforts to establish it. “OAST’s main goal is to take a suite of technologies into the field on Earth to make measurements side-by-side while returning samples to the lab to understand.” 

Then, when that is very finely honed, send it aloft.

Crucial target practice 

One of NFoLD’s goals is to participate in future astrobiology space missions from the start so that they can successfully identify target spots on other planets or moons where signs of life could actually be detected if present.

"A major challenge for life detection is where on a given planet or moon to look for life,” said Jeff Bowman, deputy principal investigator of OAST and an assistant professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. “The density of life on our own planet extends across several orders of magnitude. Look for life in the wrong place and Earth could appear lifeless.”

OAST’s team has the expertise to bridge earthly data and celestial goals.

Many of its 18 co-investigators and their teams have already explored biogeochemistry in our own planet’s eons-old rock record, in the atmosphere, the oceans, and the icecaps with an eye to extrapolating the data to other worlds. Other OAST researchers have helped design Mars probes or build robotic submarines intended to one day dive into Europa’s subsurface ocean to detect life or at least a hint of it.

“OAST researchers have expertise in detecting and characterizing life in a variety of harsh environments like the Antarctic, the deepest ocean trenches, and lakes with extreme chemistry and salinity,” Bowman said. “We will leverage this expertise to understand how life may be distributed in different ocean environmental extremes around the solar system.”

Diverse member institutions

OAST includes investigators from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego; the University of Kansas; Louisiana State University; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Stanford University; the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science; the University of Texas; Colgate University; the University of California, the University of Central Florida; the University of Auckland; York University; the University of Otago, and the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

“I'm particularly proud of the high number of women and pre-tenure scientists we've engaged through our project,” said Schmidt. Five leaders in OAST are women, and 12 researchers are early career or pre-tenure. The project will also support graduate and undergraduate students as well as postdoctoral researchers through the NASA Postdoctoral Program.

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Also READ: Laughing Gas May Have Helped Warm Early Earth and Given Breath to Life

Research News
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Media relations assistance: Ben Brumfield (404) 660-1408, ben.brumfield@comm.gatech.edu

Writer: Ben Brumfield

October 30, 2018 | ATLANTA

Earlier this year, the School of Earth and Atmospheric Science launched the C.L. Chandler Weather Chat Series. It invites students on campus to explore weather events with guest meteorology presenters. Last week the program featured Tech alumnus Brandon Miller, meteorologist and supervising weather producer of CNN International.

Miller expected to discuss what he calls “Atlanta’s Never Ending Summer” but the dramatic events of the weather that unfolded this past week prompted him instead to focus his presentation on Hurricane Michael.

Miller began his presentation with some impressive statistics on Hurricane Michael, revealing the true intensity of the storm. His data collection indicates that this destructive storm was the strongest storm to make landfall in the continental US since 1992 with 155 mph winds. The hurricane also holds the title of the third lowest pressure ever recorded in a US hurricane.

Miller added that the rapid intensification of the hurricane, evidenced by its wind speed intensifying 45 mph in the last 24 hours leading up to landfall, contributed to the storm’s record-breaking storm surge.

Miller explained the increasingly intense hurricane seasons that have recently struck the U.S. in terms of climate change. He noted that climate change is also what has been responsible for Atlanta’s unusually long summer.

Statistics reveal that this very year our last sub-60 degree Farenheit day of spring occurred the earliest it ever has in 149 years, while our  first 60 degree Farenheit day of autumn occurred the latest it ever has.

Miller noted that although hurricanes are less indicative of climate change than are the rarities we are experiencing in temperature, hurricanes are what make the stories in the headlines.

“Climate models point to an earlier spring and a later fall. And even though this type of story would not resonate in the media at all no one is dying because of the temperature,” Miller said, “these statistics on temperature are a sign that really is connected to climate change a lot more than a storm. But a storm is what makes the headline. It is what resonates with people.”

Miller explained how CNN covers stories, as the planning and logistics of storm coverage are extremely challenging. He included behind-the-scenes pictures that reveal the work that must occur in order for the media to cover an event like Hurricane Michael.

“This is what we call the war room, and it really is like a war room,” Miller said, showing a photo of a workroom plastered with maps and post-it notes.

“We have the world’s largest sticky notes: they are the coolest thing and we use them all the time … We put these big maps on the walls because we are trying to position our team in the best places. So they want to know where is the storm, where is it going to be the worst, where is the eye going to hit.”

That is not the end of the hard work of the meteorologist. More responsibilities include ensuring that the team remains safe and that reporters have access to a satellite during the storm. Meteorologists  must also keep up with their live blog that features live updates on the storm, as well as coordinate with the news-gathering efforts of CNN. Miller noted that hurricane season is his busiest season, followed by blizzard season.

Miller’s presentation not only provided information on meteorology, but also shared insight into careers related to the topic.

By the end of presentation, listeners grasped how impactful climate change can be and gained appreciation for the sources that provide a platform to share this information. For students interested in meteorology, the Weather Chat Series offers weekly seminars at 11 a.m. every Friday.

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