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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2020-07-09 11:05:09
    • Article ID: 734439

    Argonne soil carbon research reduces uncertainty in predicting climate change impacts

    • Credit: (Image by Kabindra Adhikari, USDA-ARS, Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory,)

      Scaling changes the environmental controllers and the spatial heterogeneity of soil organic carbon stocks.

    • Credit: (Image by Shutterstock/Nomad_Soul.)

      The land surface heterogeneity regulates the land-atmosphere exchanges of carbon, water and energy.

    DOE and USDA researchers use new global models to study how environmental controllers affect soil organic carbon, changes in which can alter atmospheric carbon concentrations and affect climate. Predictions could benefit industry mitigation plans.

    Nature provides a myriad of ways to keep check on its health. One of the more successful indicators is the status of its soil organic carbon, or the concentration of carbon in the organic fraction of soil that consists of decaying vegetation or animal products. A small change in carbon levels can dramatically alter atmospheric carbon concentrations and affect climate.

    Soil organic carbon is important to study because it is the soil property that provides numerous ecosystem services to humanity, such as deactivating pollutants, conserving biodiversity, conserving and purifying water, increasing soil fertility, and mitigating climate change impacts,” said Umakant Mishra, a geospatial scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

    We believe that the scaling functions we developed in this research … can improve the spatial representation of soil organic carbon in land surface within Earth system models.” — Umakant Mishra, Argonne geospatial scientist

    A collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several DOE National Labs, including Argonne, set out to predict and model the effect of environmental controllers, or soil-forming factors — climate, organisms, topography, parent material and time — on soil organic carbon at different spatial scales across the continental United States.

    The results of the soil organic carbon study are intended to reduce uncertainty in predicting global carbon climate feedbacks and associated climate changes. They also could provide more certainty as to how future climate extremes may impact the activities of numerous industries, from agriculture and crop insurance industries to natural resource conservation industries.

    Researchers, for the first time, were able to generate scaling algorithms to account for such a large geographic region by using a large set of recently available field observations, a large number of environmental factors and a machine learning algorithm — an artificial intelligence method that learns from specific data to progressively improve predictions of new, similar data.

    In this case, scale refers to the area across which soil organic carbon properties are assumed to be similar, and scaling takes information collected from one spatial scale and applies it to another. With the region broken down into a pattern of grid cells, the spatial scale used in this research ranged from a finer resolution of 100 m to a more course 50 km between grid centers.

    The soil organic carbon content differs in different sampling locations, that’s why we need to sample at representative locations if we intend to capture the spatial heterogeneity of soil properties in the study area,” Mishra said.

    The scaling algorithms that he and his collaborators created as part of the research are important to Earth system models, like the DOE’s Energy Exascale Earth System Model, in addition to predicting changes in climate more accurately.

    Scaling, Mishra noted, is an issue which has traditionally been ignored in biogeochemical/natural sciences, where it was believed that properties or processes associated with one spatial scale can be applied at both smaller or larger scales. In reality, however this is not the case.

    Current Earth system models, which are used to predict the future global carbon climate feedbacks and associated climate changes, operate at coarse spatial scales (50-100 km) and are currently unable to represent environmental controllers and their effect on soil organic carbon in a manner consistent with field observations.

    The control of environmental factors on soil organic carbon is not consistent with the observations in the current land surface models,” he added. ​We believe that the scaling functions we developed in this research, which are drawn from numerous samples across a large geographical area, can improve the spatial representation of soil organic carbon in land surface within Earth system models.”

    Among the results of the team’s recent work, models showed that topographic and soil attributes were significant controllers of soil organic carbon at finer scales. At the coarser end of the scale, climatic and land use factors served as important controllers.

    An article on the study, ​Importance and strength of environmental controllers of soil organic carbon changes with scale,” appears in the October 12020, issue of Geoderma (published online, June 232020).

    Funding for this study was provided in part by the DOE’s Office of Science.

    Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

    The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.

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    AI software enables real-time 3D printing quality assessment

    AI software enables real-time 3D printing quality assessment

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have developed artificial intelligence software for powder bed 3D printers that assesses the quality of parts in real time, without the need for expensive characterization equipment.

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    A Shining Example of Nature Leading the Way

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    UChicago scientists discover way to make quantum states last 10,000 times longer

    UChicago scientists discover way to make quantum states last 10,000 times longer

    Scientists discovered a simple modification that allows quantum systems to stay operational 10,000 times longer than previous systems.

    SLAC scientists invent low-cost emergency ventilator and share the design for free

    SLAC scientists invent low-cost emergency ventilator and share the design for free

    Researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have invented an emergency ventilator that could help save the lives of patients suffering from COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

    Scientists propose method for eliminating damaging heat bursts in fusion device

    Scientists propose method for eliminating damaging heat bursts in fusion device

    Researchers discover a technique for widening the windows of plasma current to enhance suppression of edge localized modes (ELMs) that can damage tokamak facilities.

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    A team of international physicists join forces in hunt for sterile neutrinos

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    Explosive nuclear astrophysics

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    Horizon31 startup licenses ORNL global communication system for drones

    Horizon31 startup licenses ORNL global communication system for drones

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    Workshop aimed at encouraging women and minority students to consider careers in plasma physics goes online

    Workshop aimed at encouraging women and minority students to consider careers in plasma physics goes online

    A dozen undergraduate students spent the afternoon doing experiments aimed at teaching them some fundamentals about electromagnets through PPPL's Undergraduate Workshop in Plasma Physics.

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    Wayne State receives DOE grant to develop catalysts for renewable energy generation

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    Fermilab scientist Laura Fields receives $2.5 million DOE award to study beams of shape-shifting ghost particles

    Fermilab scientist Laura Fields receives $2.5 million DOE award to study beams of shape-shifting ghost particles

    Laura Fields has won an Early Career Research Award from the Department of Energy to help physicists better understand the composition of neutrino beams used by Fermilab experiments. Her work will help gather and validate results that could shed light on why the universe consists of something rather than nothing.

    Summer Sundays Go Virtual

    Summer Sundays Go Virtual

    rookhaven Lab is moving its Summer Sunday program to an online format for 2020. Over three Sundays this summer, the Lab will host a series of live, virtual events for everyone to interact with the Lab in a new way. Each event will feature a guided tour of a Brookhaven Lab facility followed by a live Q&A with a panel comprised of the facility's scientists.

    Geothermal Brines Could Propel California's Green Economy

    Geothermal Brines Could Propel California's Green Economy

    Deep beneath the surface of the Salton Sea, a shallow lake in California's Imperial County, sits an immense reserve of critical metals that, if unlocked, could power the state's green economy for years to come. These naturally occurring metals are dissolved in geothermal brine, a byproduct of geothermal energy production. Now the race is on to develop technology to efficiently extract one of the most valuable metals from the brine produced by the geothermal plants near the Salton Sea: lithium.

    Magnum Venus Products licenses ORNL co-developed additive manufacturing technologies

    Magnum Venus Products licenses ORNL co-developed additive manufacturing technologies

    The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has licensed two additive manufacturing-related technologies that aim to streamline and ramp up production processes to Knoxville-based Magnum Venus Products, Inc., a global manufacturer of fluid movement and product solutions for industrial applications in composites and adhesives.

    Berkeley Lab Part of Multi-Institutional Team Awarded $60M for Solar Fuels Research

    Berkeley Lab Part of Multi-Institutional Team Awarded $60M for Solar Fuels Research

    The Department of Energy has awarded $60 million to a new solar fuels initiative - called the Liquid Sunlight Alliance (LiSA) - led by Caltech in close partnership with Berkeley Lab. LiSA will build on the foundational work of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP).

    Will Fox wins 2020 John Dawson Award for producing new insights into astrophysical shockwaves

    Will Fox wins 2020 John Dawson Award for producing new insights into astrophysical shockwaves

    Profile of PPPL winner of APS Dawson Award for outstanding achievement in plasma physics research.


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    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Scientists designed and connected two different artificial cells to each other to produce molecules called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

    Bone and mollusk shells are composite systems that combine living cells and inorganic components. This allows them to regenerate and change structure while also being very strong and durable. Borrowing from this amazing complexity, researchers have been exploring a new class of materials called engineered living materials (ELMs).

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Researchers developed two new methods to assess and remove error in how scientists measure quantum systems. By reducing quantum "noise" - uncertainty inherent to quantum processes - these new methods improve accuracy and precision.

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

    Lanthanum strontium manganite (LSMO) is a widely applicable material, from magnetic tunnel junctions to solid oxide fuel cells. However, when it gets thin, its behavior changes for the worse. The reason why was not known. Now, using two theoretical methods, a team determined what happens.

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

    How an ion behaves when isolated within an analytical instrument can differ from how it behaves in the environment. Now, Xue-Bin Wang at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory devised a way to bring ions and molecules together in clusters to better discover their properties and predict their behavior.

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

    Shape affects how the particles fit together and, in turn, the resulting material. For the first time, a team observed the self-assembly of nanoparticles with tetrahedral shapes.

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

    This study is the first to confirm dust particles pre-dating the formation of our solar system. Further study of these materials will enable a deeper understanding of the processes that formed and have since altered them.

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Future fusion reactors will require materials that can withstand extreme operating conditions, including being bombarded by high-energy neutrons at high temperatures. Scientists recently irradiated titanium diboride (TiB2) in the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) to better understand the effects of fusion neutrons on performance.

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    In breast cancer screening, an imaging technique based on nuclear medicine is currently being used as a successful secondary screening tool alongside mammography to improve the accuracy of the diagnosis. Now, a team is hoping to improve this imaging technique.

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Scientists can use genetic information to measure if microbes in the environment can perform specific ecological roles. Researchers recently analyzed the genomes of over 6,000 microbial species.


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