Scientists Say: Expect More Rainfall Variability for California

Tropical weather phenomenon likely to bring greater rainfall – and drought – by 2100

By Barbra Rodriguez

Newswise — California’s winter precipitation is expected to become 50% more variable by century’s end, based on a Berkeley Lab-led study of the impact of future greenhouse gas emissions on the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), a rainfall pattern that covers a quarter of the globe. 

When active, the MJO influences whether precipitation occurs for 30 to 60 days, and is already known to affect North America’s weather when it moves eastward from the Indian Ocean (sometimes driving, for example, the Pineapple Express, which brings heavy rainfall to the Pacific coast). To see how much global emissions increase would influence the MJO, Berkeley Lab faculty scientist Da Yang and postdoctoral fellow Wenyu Zhou, and colleagues at UC San Diego and Nanjing University used the 10 computer models that best capture MJO behavior to study the emissions’ impact on it. By averaging the models’ results in the paper published recently in Nature Climate Change, the researchers identified the 50% increase in winter precipitation variability throughout California by century’s end.

“I was quite surprised to see such a huge effect, knowing that even a small change in rainfall statewide could have a significant impact,” said Yang, who is also an assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at UC Davis. “This may have substantial implications for agriculture, flood control, and water resource management.”

Moreover, their analysis suggests that the MJO is able to transfer its precipitation-related atmospheric conditions to the West Coast of the United States via changes in strong, high-atmosphere winds of the subtropical jet stream.

For more, click here.

Pioneering Work Modeling How Electric Vehicles Interact with the Electric Grid

A Q&A with scientist Bin Wang on how Berkeley Lab is helping cities prepare for a major shift in our transportation and grid sectors

By Kiran Julin

As the rate of electric vehicle (EV) adoption in the U.S. rises, the transportation sector will put additional pressure on the power grid. California expects more than 50% zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), which includes battery EV, plug-in hybrid EV and fuel cell EV, in new vehicle sales by 2030 to achieve statewide emission and pollution reduction goals. This added pressure on the grid could be very disruptive, but transportation and power grid researchers at Berkeley Lab are working on solutions to help city planners prepare. 

Berkeley Lab scientist Bin Wang knows that coming up with solutions is going to require an interdisciplinary approach, and in many ways Wang’s background represents the perfect intersection of expertise required. He has experience working on the electric grid and transportation and vehicle engineering, all of which are key domains needed to solve for EV growth. 

Researchers really only started looking at the integration of grid and transportation research in the last couple of years, due to the growth of EVs, grid modernization, ride-sharing, and autonomous vehicles on the road. Wang is focused on developing scalable solutions to analyze EV impacts on the grid as well as maximize the benefits of EV adoption. Wang’s vision is to develop these algorithms on a large metropolitan-scale model, such as the San Francisco Bay Area. The combination of doing this analysis on a large-scale -- as well as optimizing for both the transportation and electric grid -- makes this more complex than many other computational transportation projects. 

Click here to read the Q&A at the Energy Technologies Area website.

Berkeley Lab Founder Ernest Lawrence to Be Honored With Memorial Highway in South Dakota

Cyclotron inventor was born in Canton, South Dakota, in 1901

By Glenn Roberts Jr. 

Nobel laureate Ernest Lawrence – founder of Berkeley Lab, inventor of the cyclotron, and a native of Canton, South Dakota – will be honored with a memorial highway in his home state. 

Mike Headley, executive director of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead, South Dakota, and Ben Jones, the state education secretary, had applied for the renaming of the highway segment, a stretch of Highway 18 that runs through Canton. Berkeley Lab has played a critical role in establishing, developing, and operating SURF, and participates in several experiments at the site.

It was in 1931 that Lawrence designed and built the first successful cyclotron, a small round particle accelerator for which Lawrence would receive the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics. Also in 1931, Lawrence founded the UC Radiation Laboratory, which is now known as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or Berkeley Lab. He served as the Lab’s director until his death in 1958.

"Not only did Lawrence invent the cyclotron, but he also changed the way scientists do research,” said Berkeley Lab Director Michael Witherell. “He showed how large teams of scientists working together could make breakthroughs that were otherwise unimaginable."

For more information:

Section of US Hwy 18 named for South Dakota Nobel Laureate, Sanford Lab, July 28, 2020.

Journal Link: Nature Climate Change