Active research areas

Variability and change in mountain climates

About half the fresh water used by humans originates in mountains. In regions like the western United States, winter snowpack provides vital water resources during the dry summer melt season. Our group studies the mechanisms controlling the amount and distribution of mountain precipitation and snowpack, and their implications for how mountain climates might change in a warmer world.

Simulated 2-hour precipitation during a storm impacting an idealized mountain range similar to the Washington Cascades. North-south variations in rain-shadow strength could have important implications for water resources as the latitude of the storm tracks shifts with climate change.

The response of the global hydrologic cycle to climate change, and its isotopic footprint.

The hydrologic cycle plays an important role in the atmospheric heat engine. Most water vapor in the atmosphere evaporates from tropical oceans, where much of the sun’s energy is absorbed, while most condensation occurs at higher altitudes and/or latitudes, where temperatures are cooler. This movement of heat from warm to cool regions drives the atmospheric motions that characterize our weather and climate. Our group had developed a hierarchy of models to better understand the global hydrologic cycle, its response to climate change, and its connection to stable water isotopes, which are widely used as proxies of past hydroclimate change.

Zonal-mean evaporation minus precipitation in observations (blue), and in a simple energy balance model that diffuses near-surface moist static energy down the meridional gradient (red).
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Oregon State University