Congratulations to our faculty for their recent research awards!

Gordon Taylor received a new NSF award, in the amount $514,960, in support of the project “Collaborative Research: Key Microbial Processes in Oxygen Minimum Zones: From in Situ Community Rate Measurements to Single Cells”, for the period 10/1/19 – 9/30/22.

Project Overview: Oxygen availability shapes the distributions and activities of marine organisms. Ongoing human activities and climate change are expected to lead to expansion and intensification of already large oxygen-stressed areas of the coastal and open ocean. Decreases in ocean oxygen have significant ecological consequences, including habitat loss for migratory and bottom-dwelling organisms, modification of the marine food web, and production of trace gases with pronounced feedbacks on climate, such as methane and nitrous oxide. Intense chemical cycling by microorganisms occurs in oxygen-depleted marine habitats. However, a full understanding of the consequences for marine ecosystems is hampered by limited knowledge of actual rates of key microbiological processes and dynamics of the microorganisms mediating them. This study combines novel methods and sampling techniques to understand how these processes are influenced by changes in oxygen concentration to inform predictions of important chemical exchanges within a changing ocean and its production of climate-active gases. This deeply collaborative project trains undergraduates (four of whom participate on the cruise), a graduate student and a postdoctoral fellow. Outreach takes place in middle and high schools and through social media. Data and samples from the cruise are integrated in coursework.

Oxygen depletion alters cycling of major elements (especially carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur) as well as food web functionality. This project addresses major gaps in our knowledge of oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) processes by applying in situ approaches to more accurately measure rates of several key microbial processes (chemoautotrophy, denitrification, anammox, sulfate reduction and sulfide oxidation) central to marine biogeochemical cycling. This work studies the Eastern Tropical North Pacific OMZ, the largest open ocean oxygen-depleted system, to 1) determine the in situ rates of microbial processes involved in carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycling, 2) reveal the genomic blueprint of active single cells involved in these processes, and 3) obtain estimates of the relative contributions of the dominant chemoautotrophic and heterotrophic groups to the measured rates. This work include applies cutting-edge equipment for in situ sampling and incubations that minimize artifacts associated with traditional water sampling approaches, allowing more accurate estimates of rates of important biogeochemical processes. Additionally, rate measurements of relatively undisturbed bulk and fractionated water samples make it easier to distinguish the potential role of particle-associated microorganisms in these OMZ processes. Single cell sorting of microorganisms using a fluorescent dye indicative of cell activity together with metatranscriptomics informs on metabolic pathways used for key processes by active microbial community members, as well as the potential coupling of chemoautotrophy and nitrogen or/and sulfur cycling. By combining stable isotope probing, fluorescence in situ hybridization and single cell Raman microspectrometry the relative activity levels of different microbial phylotypes involved in chemoautotrophic and heterotrophic elemental cycling are assessed.

Brian Colle received a new NSF Award (in collaboration with Sandra Yuter at North Carolina State University), in support of the project “Collaborative Research: Extensive Field Observations and Modeling to Understand Multi-Band Precipitation Processes Within Winter Storms”, in the amount $405,812, for the award period 8/1/19-7/31/2

Project overview: Northeast U.S. winter storms have wide ranging societal and economic impacts, especially along the densely populated coastal corridor from Maryland to Massachusetts. Sets of long, thin features with enhanced precipitation rates called snowbands often occur within winter storms and contribute to large variations in snow fall accumulation over short distances. Forecasts for snow accumulation are hampered by gaps in understanding of how snowbands form and are maintained. The project will use high spatial and temporal resolution observations and weather models to resolve the processes within the larger storm that yield snowbands. A set of research instruments located on Long Island, NY will map the 3D storm structures every few minutes. Measurements will address where and when the snow particles grow in the storm. Numerical weather modeling will examine the range of conditions associated with snowband formation and the characteristics of layers in the atmosphere in which the snowbands occur. The findings can help improve forecasting of snowfall accumulation as well as be applied to other geographic regions.

The work will focus on intermittent processes for snowband genesis and maintenance. Previous work showed that sets of multiple snowbands can occur with little or no frontogenesis, and the presence of instability did not determine whether bands formed. Additionally, analysis of radar observations did not show clear, sustained convergence signatures to be locked with snow multi-bands implying that multi-bands do not have sustained updrafts throughout their lifecycle. The work will address the role of gravity waves in helping to trigger the release of instabilities at small time and spatial scales that lead in turn to amplifying diabatic feedbacks that form the majority of mesoscale snowbands. The project will collect and analyze high spatial and time resolution observations of snowbands using a set of horizontal and vertical scanning radars, scanning LIDAR, additional sounding launches, high-resolution pressure sensors, and surface snow imagery. The observations will permit examination of the joint interactions over time among released instability, dynamics, and microphysics at spatial scales < 1 km and time scales of a few minutes. The project will use modeling to examine the band forcing and stability phase space using a large suite of idealized simulations down to large-eddy scales. This work will provide an improved understanding of banded precipitation within the comma head of extratropical cyclones along the densely populated northeast coast.

Daniel Knopf received a new award from DOE, in support of the project “Small Field Campaign: Aerosol-Ice Formation Closure Pilot Study for the period 8/15/19 – 3/31/21, in the amount $357,055.”

Project Overview: The formation of ice crystals in the atmosphere by aerosol particles inducing nucleation of ice from water or the vapor phase represents one of the least understood atmospheric processes. Our insufficient understanding of the physical and chemical processes underlying ice nucleation hampers our predictive capability of cloud formation processes and climate. This knowledge is crucial since atmospheric ice formation impacts the distribution of water vapor which is the strongest greenhouse gas, the hydrological cycle including precipitation, and the radiative properties of clouds thereby modulating Earth’s energy budget.
To improve our fundamental understanding of the processes leading to ice formation, in a multi-institutional field measurement and modeling effort, we conduct a first-of-its-kind aerosol–ice formation closure study. The basic idea is to use detailed information on authentic aerosol particles to predict the measured number of ice nucleating particles (INPs) in sampled air mass. Predictability of INP types and number concentrations will allow cloud and climate models to forecast ice crystal number concentrations. A key difference from previous studies is to base the study on the total ambient aerosol population rather than on a limited portion of it. This pilot study will be conducted at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility at Southern Great Plains (SGP) to test a field observational approach for an aerosol–ice formation closure study. In this pilot study we focus on one pathway how ice forms in the atmosphere, termed immersion freezing, where the INP is engulfed by liquid water at temperatures below the ice melting point. Immersion freezing is considered a major formation pathway of ice in the atmosphere, in particular, for mixed-phase clouds where ice particles and supercooled water droplets co-exist. Mixed-phase clouds can have a significant impact on the radiative budget of our planet and the hydrological cycle.

The closure concept is straightforward to test any physical model: measure all model inputs as well as predicted outputs, and then evaluate whether the model can predict the measured outputs when accounting for input and output measurement uncertainties. Here, we aim to simultaneously characterize ambient immersion-mode INPs and leading aspects of the aerosol population relevant to ice crystal formation via immersion freezing. This includes the size distribution and composition of the ambient aerosol population and INPs. The aerosol data will serve as input for prediction of INP number concentrations using various state-of-the-art ice nucleation parameterizations including deterministic and classical nucleation theory based descriptions, whose agreement with the INP measurements can then be evaluated within propagated uncertainties. These parameterizations will account in varying degrees for the size and composition of the particles for prediction of INP number concentrations.

The objective is to provide an end-to-end test of the aerosol-ice formation closure measurement approach and its suitability to better constrain INP prediction by current climate models. We expect that the results will also provide new insights into the following fundamental questions regarding prediction of INP numbers in the atmosphere: What are the crucial aerosol property measurements to accurately guide ice nucleation representations in models? What level of parameter details need to be known to achieve aerosol-ice formation closure within current measurement uncertainties? What are the leading causes for climate model bias in INP predictions? What ancillary aerosol property observations are most useful to accompany long-term INP measurements for the combined purpose of constraining INP parameterizations and climate model skill?

Roy Price received a new award from NASA (SETI Institute), in support of the project entitled “In Situ Vent Analysis Divebot for Exobiology Research (InVADER)”
in the amount $106,268, for the period 8/28/18 – 8/27/21.

Project Overview: The In-situ Vent Analysis Divebot for Exobiology Research (InVADER) is a tightly integrated imaging and laser Raman spectroscopy/laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy/laser induced native fluorescence (LRS/LIBS/LINF) instrument capable of in-situ, rapid, long-term underwater analyses of hydrothermal vent fluid and precipitates. Such analyses will be critical for finding and studying life and life’s precursors at vent systems on Ocean Worlds. To demonstrate the scientific potential and functionality of the instrument, we will install InVADER on the Ocean Observatories Initiative’s (OOI) Regional Cabled Array (RCA), a power/data distribution network off the Oregon coast, at the underwater hydrothermal systems of Axial Seamount, the largest and most active volcano on the western boundary of the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate. Because the vents at Axial Seamount generate chemical energy that sustains life, they are high-fidelity analogues to putative biospheres on Ocean Worlds.

We will perform unprecedented, high resolution in-situ laser measurements at two active hydrothermal vents at Axial Seamount located at a water depth of 1500 m and over 300 miles offshore. We will take high-frequency measurements over long time durations, providing a greater understanding of geochemical dynamics across multiple temporal domains, and allowing active investigation of microbial metabolisms in hydrothermal environments. Samples of local fluids and minerals will be collected during installation, and Co-I Price’s laboratory, with incoming SoMAS graduate student Holly Rucker, will characterize the mineralogy, hydrothermal fluid compositions, and geological context of the samples through laboratory analyses.

This project has the potential to transform the technological and operational arsenal available for future NASA Ocean World exploration. More immediately, it will broaden the scientific knowledge and techniques available to terrestrial science today through transformative innovations in both technology and science operations. Thus, InVADER will pave the way for future autonomous ocean/vent exploration efforts, with applications to ocean sciences and future targeted exploration of Ocean Worlds. More information on the project can be found here:

Pavlos Kollias received a new award from NASA in support of the project entitled “Aerosols and Cloud-Convection Precipitation (A-CCP) Study”, for the period 4/19/19 – 4/18/22, in the amount $78,998.

Project Overview: The Decadal Survey identified Aerosols (A) and Clouds, Convection and Precipitation (CCP) as high priority Designated Observables (DO) to be addressed. Furthermore, the DS recognized the science merit in combining the A and CCP DOs.

A NASA study is being conducted to explore observing system architectures to address the DO, while honoring the cost caps proposed by the DS report. The goal of the ACCP study is to define science goals and objectives, the desired capabilities associated with these observables, and observing systems approaches to achieve them. The study leverages the results from studies such as the Aerosol-Cloud-Ecosystems (ACE) study, those from existing and proposed Earth Venture con­cepts, and analysis already conducted on data from past field experiments and recent advances of modeling systems and Observing System Simulation Experiments (OSSEs).

The PI is a member of the Science Impact Team (SIT) that is charged to evaluate the extent to which various measurements architectures (i.e. sets of measurables with specified characteristics) provide the geophysical parameters required to meet the science objectives and contribute to application objec­tives. The SIT inputs will help the A-CCP team quan­tifiably measure the information or constraints that measurement architectures provide for specific science questions or geophysical parameters. The SIT inputs will assist in the A-CCP team’s mea­surement of the contribution that a particular observing system configuration provides to a science question, either via the geophysical parameters required to address it, or more indirectly when these observables are assimilated in earth system models.

John Mak received a new award, from NYSERDA, in the amount $51,632, for the period 7/1/19- 8/1/21, in support of the project “Evaluate Wintertime Temporal Trends in VOC Speciation and Concentrations During Different Meteorological Conditions at a Fixed Site”.

Project Overview: This proposal seeks to better understand the current roles of both traditional and non-traditional energy- and non-energy-related sources in NYC air quality during winter. The overall objectives are to examine the wintertime composition and dynamics of gas-phase organic compounds in NYC and to determine the concentrations of compounds from energy- and non-energy-related sources. We target the following research questions.

Q1) What are the temporally varying wintertime concentrations of VOCs, IVOCs, and SVOCs in New York City?

Q2) What are the abundances of compounds from energy- vs. non-energy sources, and the relative source contributions of non-vehicular sources vs. motor vehicles to chemically-speciated VOC (and I/SVOC) emissions?

We will deploy Stony Brook’s high resolution proton transfer time of flight mass spectrometer (PTRTOFMS) to the Bronx, NY, for continuous measurements, and we will collect samples for subsequent laboratory analysis at Yale using Gas Chromatography-Quadrupole-Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry (GC-Q-TOFMS) to achieve comprehensive molecular-level characterization of gas-phase organic compounds across all volatility ranges. This combination of instruments is a very powerful symbiosis of high time resolution (PTRTOFMS) and high chemical resolution (QC-Q-TOFMS), which will be enhanced by mobile offline sample collection around NYC to add spatial resolution.

Laura Wehrmann has been awarded an OVPR Seed Grant, for a project entitled, “First insights into the biogeochemical cycling of (bioessential) trace metals in the proglacial zones of Arctic Glaciers (Coastal Svalbard, Norway)”, for the period June 3, 2019 – Dec. 3, 2020, in the amount $40,000.

Project Abstract: To critically evaluate and accurately predict the effects of glacial retreat on the delivery of iron and other bioessential trace metals to high-latitude coastal waters, a detailed mechanistic understanding of the weathering processes that release these elements into solution in dissolved or other bioavailable forms and insight into the distribution and regulatory functioning of additional biogeochemical processes in the geomorphologically heterogeneous proglacial zone is crucial. The project proposed here aims at filling key gaps in our knowledge by allowing us to obtain a first set of biogeochemical data from the proglacial zones of two Svalbard glaciers. The objective of the project is to gain an overview of the geochemical weathering processes and linked mechanisms of trace metal release within proglacial zones, and to identify distinct “hotspots” of biogeochemical trace metal diagenesis.

Marat Khairoutdinov received a new award from NSF for a project entitled “Collaborative Research: Physics of and Climate Regulation by Convective Aggregation.” This three year project, started on June 1, with an award amount of $365,309. This is collaborative with Kerry Emanuel at MIT.

Project Overview: Large aggregations of deep, rain-bearing convective clouds are a key element of the weather in the tropics. The simultaneous occurrence of convective clouds over a large region can sometimes be explained in terms of external factors, such as continental heating or surface wind convergence driven by sea surface temperature (SST) contrasts. But perhaps convection can also aggregate spontaneously: not because external factors favor it, but because convection itself creates favorable conditions for additional convection. Such self-aggregation, in which convection begets convection, has been found in idealized simulations of the tropical atmosphere by the PIs and others.

In these simulations self-aggregation is typically temperature dependent, increasing with SSTs, and as convection aggregates skies clear and dry in the non-convecting areas. The loss of energy to space by longwave radiation from the clear-sky regions subsequently cools the SSTs, which reduces aggregation and restores the sea surface to its original temperature. This restorative feedback loop could exert a powerful influence on the temperature of the tropics, acting to reduce both the variability of tropical SSTs and the increase in SSTs due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations.

The notion of self-aggregation as a tropical thermostat is intriguing, but so far the effect has been demonstrated and studied primarily in idealized models. Simplifications used in these models include limited geographical domain, uniform SSTs, and periodic lateral boundaries. More work is thus needed to determine if thermal regulation through self-aggregation is a robust effect in the real world. A logical next step in this direction is to look at self-aggregation in more sophisticated models.

Under this award the Principal Investigators (PIs) examine the mechanisms of self-aggregation, and its potency for thermal regulation, in a global cloud resolving model called the System for Atmospheric Modeling. The model, developed by one of the PIs, can simulate the forms of convective aggregation seen in satellite images, including hurricanes and the large-scale Madden-Julian Oscillation. The model allows experiments in which various mechanisms thought to be responsible for aggregation are suppressed by direct intervention. For instance the importance of cloud longwave radiative effects can be assessed by averaging the radiative flux between clear and cloudy areas, thereby suppressing longwave radiation as a mechanism for aggregation. The model also includes a sophisticated representation of cloud microphysics, which enables tests of the sensitivity of aggregation to specific cloud properties. One issue to be addressed is the sensitivity of aggregation to the radiative properties of ice crystals near the tops of the clouds.

The work is of societal as well as scientific interest given the large and populous portion of the earth that would be affected by the self-aggregation thermostat. A better understanding of convective aggregation could also be beneficial for predicting tropical weather, and results of this work could inform the development of forecast models. One area that could benefit is hurricane prediction, as hurricanes form from tropical cloud clusters, and the prediction of hurricane genesis remains a challenge. In addition, the project provides support and training for two graduate students, thereby providing for the future workforce in this research area.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Marat Khairoutdinov also received a new award from NSF (via UW), in support of the project “Collaborative Research: Using SOCRATES Datasets to Improve Simulations of Clouds, Aerosols and Their Climate Impacts”, in the amount $32,763.

Project Overview: The project involves 4km global simulations with the System for Atmospheric Modeling that are nudged to track weather conditions during the SOCRATES deployment during Jan. – Feb., 2018. The simulations will be completed at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputer Center in collaboration between Dr. Khairoutdinov and Chris Bretherton at University of Washington.

Ali Farhadzadeh, and collaborators, received a research award from the Great Lakes Research Consortium, entitled “Eastern Lake Erie Shore Erosion, Sediment Transport and Depositions under a Changing Climate”, in the amount $21,950.

Collaborators (4): Henry J. Bokuniewicz, Ph.D, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University; Roy Widrig, Coastal Hazards and Processes Specialist, NY Sea Grant, Oswego, NY; and Evyn Iacovitti, Regional Environmental Analyst, and Ron Rausch, Director of Environmental Stewardship and Planning, NYS Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, Albany, NY

Project Overview: This project will first document the historical trends of the Lake Erie seasonal climate, wave climate and storm surge as well as beach erosion and sediment movements on its eastern shore and then investigate scenarios of potential changes due to a changing climate, using computer modeling to quantify sediment transport and deposition processes following beach erosion. The objective is to create a signpost pointing toward future climate change consequences for Lake Erie shores and beaches, in general, and, initially, its eastern shores, in particular.

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