Society’s ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change depends on a mechanistic understanding of the physical and biological processes driving and responding to climate change. Complex interactions within and among the land, ocean, and atmospheric components of the Earth system make it challenging to predict future climate change and its consequences for ecosystem functioning and human activities. Positive feedback effects that amplify climate change or negative feedback effects that dampen climate change are particularly important to characterize because they lead to non-linear trajectories in climate change and its impacts.
Areas of Research Focus
At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, research teams across the campus are focused on the various topics related to the physical and biological science of climate change, including:
- improving the representation of physical and biological processes in numerical and process-based models that operate across a range of spatiotemporal scales, including coupled land-atmosphere Earth system models, hydrological models, reactive-transport models, and ecosystem models;
- characterizing plant-soil-microbe interactions that regulate soil carbon sequestration, plant productivity, soil greenhouse gas emissions, and other biogeochemical processes that influence the global warming potential of terrestrial ecosystems;
- using paleo-climatological and paleo-ecological proxies to reconstruct past climate and ecosystems as a window into the future; and
- improving our understanding of atmospheric physics and chemistry related to climate change, such as clouds and cloud feedback, aerosols, air-land-water interactions, and global teleconnections and their effects on atmospheric dynamics (e.g., El Niño-Southern Oscillation).