• University of California-San Diego
  • 9500 Gilman Drive
  • La Jolla CA 92093-0532 USA
  • Tel: 1-858-534-0000
  • Fax: 1-858-534-0000

EaSM Project: Aerosol-Cloud-Earth Feedbacks

Project Summary

Aerosol effects on clouds operate at spatial scales of short-lived cloud updrafts (typically 100 m- 100 km), yet exert a global effect on climate over multiple decades. The multiscale nature of these indirect effects on the planetary energy balance presents particular challenges to climate modeling, which has led to large uncertainties in estimates of indirect effects. The most difficult types of aerosol indirect effects to quantify are those for which the aerosol sources are controlled by complex interactions of ecosystems with climate, such as the aerosol emissions from ocean phytoplankton and from wildfires in forests. This proposed project addresses these challenges through a combination of advanced parameterizations, explicit modeling, and observations with a multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary team of experts. Advanced parameterizations of aerosol effects on stratocumulus, shallow cumulus and deep cumulus clouds that have been or are being developed under separate funding will be brought together into a common framework for multidecadal simulations with coupling to the ocean. The simulations with and without aerosols will be examined to determine the influence of aerosol indirect effects on decadal climate variability. This evaluation will be accomplished by relating climate-scale changes in oceanic and atmospheric conditions over the Pacific to the sensitivities of regional ocean-atmosphere interactions to aerosols along the west coast of North America and consequent atmospheric conditions over the entire U.S.
The broader educational impacts of the proposed research will be realized through: (1) Promotion of teaching, training and learning through development and piloting of an informal science education program targeting an underserved audience; (2) Broadened participation of underrepresented groups – in this case, retired and elderly people – in scientific learning; (3) Enhancement of infrastructure for teaching through partnerships with an established educational organization; (4) Broad dissemination of results through presentations, peer-reviewed publications and via the web; and (5) Societal benefits in terms of improved understanding of climate science and the related ethical issues. In addition to outreach activities, there will be at least three graduate students who will each receive three years of training in coupled Earth system modeling as part of this project.

Research Photos

To find photos of the EaSM research field work at Mount Soledad click here.


Project Director: Lynn Russell
UCSD Investigators:
    Guang Zhang
    Art Miller
    Dan Cayan
    Richard Somerville
    David Pierce
UCM Investigator:
    Tony Westerling
PNNL Investigators:
    Steve Ghan
    Xiaohong Liu
    Mikhail Ovchinnikov
NCAR Investigators:
    Sungsu Park
Participating Students:
    Shira Zingman-Daniels

Click here for individual investigator bios, web pages, and relevant references

Opportunities for Graduate Students

Three graduate students are supported by this project to undertake PhD research on collaborative, interdisciplinary projects advised by EaSM investigators. Interested prospective students can start by applying to graduate school at Scripps (, as part of the Climate Sciences Curricular Group. For more information on what opportunities are available, please contact the Project Director (Lynn Russell) or any of the other investigators.

Outreach Partnership with OLLI

In order to (1) further public understanding of climate science, recent advances in aerosol-cloud interactions, and the societal issues associated with a changing global climate; and (2) promote learning by developing, evaluating and refining an effective, replicable, place-based informal science education program in partnership with organizations that serve older citizens, our project will engage and inform senior adult participants of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) programs on the issues of climate change, with special emphasis on atmospheric aerosols and clouds. This project meets the continuing education needs of an audience seldom targeted explicitly by informal science education initiatives: the large and growing community of older and retired citizens. As seniors make up a growing fraction of the US population and constitute a disproportionately high fraction of the voting populace, education programs targeting seniors can increase the degree to which the views of this influential voting bloc are informed by current scientific research. Improving the public understanding of climate and aerosols will better inform decision-making about two of the most pressing environmental issues of our time: climate change and air quality. By partnering with the OLLI (, and its campus in La Jolla at UCSD, we will be able to benefit from their professional experience in creating informal education experiences for adults. At the same time, we will expand their courses to include this essential and timely topic in programs that are already sustainable.

The lectures given at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute as a part of the outreach partnership can be found here.Click here to find animations of EaSM project data introduced and discussed at the Osher lectures. A short research paper discsussing the results of this project can be found here.

The EaSM Project was made possible through funding from NSF grant #AGS-1048995.