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Climate Change

Science Supporting Policy in California and Beyond

Photo: Tractor kicking up dust in a field

Reducing field operations, such as tilling, can cut greenhouse gas emissions from diesel engines in farm machines. (Sylvia Wright/UC Davis)  » READ MORE

Air Quality

How do ocean currents affect cloud formation, both of which are influenced by climate change?

Anthony Wexler, Director, Air Quality Research Center, measures new particle formation along the coast of California.  These nano-particles, likely formed from gases emitted by the ocean, grow in the atmosphere to become so called “cloud condensation nuclei” – the seed particles that can grow into cloud droplets and eventually rain. The currents off the coast of California bring nutrients to the coastal zone, which cause rapid plant and animal growth (including fish). The growth emits compounds into the atmosphere that then form the new particles that are observed.  This research shows the relationship between ocean currents, nutrient supply to the coastal zone, biological productivity, biogenic emissions, chemical reactions in the atmosphere, formation of new particles and cloud properties—all of which occur along the coast of California.

How will climate change influence weather along the coast and the health of California marine ecosystems?

Ian Faloona; land, air, and water resources; studies various aspects of weather and air chemistry that are influenced by our changing climate. Faloona is particularly interested in the California Current and its high biological productivity in response to changes in wind speeds along the coast. Constantly changing features of the coastal environment can have profound impacts on the exchanges between the atmosphere and ocean of many climatically important trace gases, such as carbon dioxide, dimethylsulfide, methane, and nitrous oxide. He is interested in monitoring such gases along the coast to study the connections between changes in their amounts and the health of the coastal ecosystem, regional air quality, and local weather. He investigates air chemistry in many other environments and searches for possible atmospheric feedbacks between the biosphere and the climate system.

Will increased temperatures increase regional air pollution in California?

Shu-Hua Chen; land, air, water resources; studies mesoscale meteorology and the impact of climate change on regional air quality in California. Climate change will modify the strength and frequency of weather phenomena, such as high pressure systems, which are associated with air pollution. Chen seeks to understand the variation of weather patterns influenced by changing climate and uses that to model the stagnant atmospheric conditions over California's Central Valley and the Los Angeles basin. She uses data from severe weather and regional climate to predict pollutant transport.

How do land use changes influence the climate of California?

Bryan Weare; land, air, water resources; is studying the effects of irrigation changes and other factors on California climate. Projects in his field of atmospheric sciences improve understanding of how climate is influenced by local to global changes over time periods from months to decades. Weare's techniques range from the analysis of long term weather observations to the use of sophisticated global and regional weather forecast models. These provide information about how exchanges of moisture and heat between the atmosphere and the earth's surface affect climate. Recent evidence of the influence of human activity on the climate system has led to increased research attention on the hydrologic cycle as an important focus for the study of climate change.

How do UC Davis faculty collaborate with policymakers to match strategic technologies to national and state reductions of greenhouse gases from mobile sources?

Daniel Sperling is founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, a research unit that examines the future potentials of biofuels, hybrid electric technologies and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to reduce greenhouse gases. He is a leading international expert on transportation technology assessment, energy and environmental aspects of transportation, and transportation policy. He has testified numerous times to the US Congress, California Legislature, and various government agencies. At a recent Congressional briefing, at the invitation of Congressmembers Mike Thompson, John Doolittle, Dan Lungren and Doris Matsui, Sperling’s team offered critical examinations of future automotive technologies and fuels. Sperling is coauthoring the low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) for the Governor. The plan is being drafted to cut the carbon in state fuels by 10 percent by 2020. This will open up the fuel industry to alternatives such as ethanol and other fuels that require less carbon to produce.

What are the air quality and climate effects of trans-Pacific pollution transport?

Steve Cliff, researcher in applied science, currently collects samples of particulate matter (PM) from Mount Tamalpais, Donner Summit, and Mount Lassen. His samples have revealed that dust from as far away as the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts of China and Mongolia and man-made pollution from Asian cities reaches Northern California. The types of PM that travel around the globe include soil dust, sulfate, soot, and trace metals from coal burning, diesel, and other fossil fuel combustion. Cliff is particularly interested in how this trans-Pacific PM affects regional climate in California and how increasing PM emissions in Asia will affect air quality in the US.

How does the forest canopy absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release cool moisture back into it?

Kyaw Tha Paw U; land, air, water resources; participates in the Wind River Canopy Crane Research Facility. The tower crane carries researchers 220 feet into the forest canopy to measure how trees absorb carbon dioxide, and how moisture evaporating from the forest helps cool the planet. Old growth forest canopies experience turbulence due to interactions with the atmosphere.

How does climate change affect the long-term measurement of air pollution and visibility in remote areas of the United States?

Lowell Ashbaugh, Crocker Nuclear Laboratory, participates in the Interagency Monitoring or Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) program to track trends in visibility at remote national parks and wilderness areas across the United States over the next several decades. Climate changes on scales ranging from year-to-year variations to long-term global warming may result in changing the concentration of visibility-reducing particles in these remote locations by affecting the chemistry and transport patterns of the particles. Ashbaugh is interested in how these climate changes may affect our interpretation and analysis of visibility trends, and how they may impact regulatory decisions to improve visibility under the Regional Haze Regulations promulgated by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in remote areas of the nation.