Prof. Pierre Gentine Awarded DOE Early Career Research Grant

May 19 2015 | By Holly Evarts | Photo by Eileen Barroso

Pierre Gentine, assistant professor of earth and environmental engineering, has won a five-year $750,000 Early Career Research Program grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for research on land‐atmosphere interactions and the role they play in weather and climate prediction. His project, “Cross-Scale Land-Atmosphere Experiment (CSLAEX),” is one of 44 selected by the DOE program, now in its sixth year, which supports the development of individual research programs of outstanding scientists early in their careers.

Professor Pierre Gentine.

“I feel deeply honored to receive such an award,” Gentine says. “This grant will help support this exciting and novel research to understand how land-surface heterogeneity, such as induced by land cover or soil moisture heterogeneity, impacts the transport of heat and moisture between the land and the atmosphere.”

His research focuses on the feedback between land and atmosphere, interactions that take place over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Improved estimation of evaporation over land will improve water resources management, weather, and climatic forecasts. Most current formulations of surface turbulent fluxes in the atmosphere are informed by observations with a limited temporal and spatial scale (point measurements) and thus have limited applicability.

Gentine’s Early Career project is targeted at improving the multi‐scale representation of the near‐surface heat exchange using observations based on high‐frequency fiber optic cables. Researchers’ knowledge and predictive capacity in land‐atmosphere coupling is limited by their ability to observe the full‐scale spectrum in action. His research will bridge this gap in observation capacity by measuring components of the surface energy balance at a spatial scale relevant to meteorological applications and remote sensing along with recording observations of the nested subscale processes using fiber optic measurements.

He will deploy his project at the DOE Atmospheric Radiation Measurement climate research facility’s Southern Great Plains site near Lamont, Oklahoma. The data recorded from the surface energy balance coupled with simultaneous observations of the atmospheric state (boundary layer, cloud, convection) available at the site will be used to frame and evaluate new heat flux laws and parameterizations for the boundary layer and the land surface that can then be implemented into future hydrological and atmospheric models.

“The results of our study should change the way we approach and understand land-surface heterogeneity and should impact multiple fields including meteorology, climate, hydrology, and remote sensing,” says Gentine.

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