Featured Projects

Elevated CO2 and higher temperatures negatively impact photosynthesis

If plants need CO2 to grow, doesn’t more CO2 mean more plant growth? A recent experiment modeling the effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 on crops shows that it’s not that simple. Work led by Professor Qianlai Zhuang’s group shows that you can’t look at just one effect in isolation to determine how it will impact global crop production.

Modification of lignin in hybrid poplar trees

Lignin is an important component of plant cell walls, forming a physical barrier against insects and pathogens and providing structural support when the plant is water stressed. But when plants are converted to biofuels and other bio-based products, lignin makes it hard to break down the plant material. Professor Rick Meilen looks at how to modify poplar trees grown for biofuels to overcome this challenge.

Towards a resilient grid: an investment prioritization decision framework that integrates the growing risks of severe weather- induced outages

From 2003-2012, an estimated 680 weather-related power outages cost the U.S. economy between $20-55 billion annually in economic damages. Are utilities prepared? A new project led by Professors Mark Hastak, Roshank Nateghi, and Wally Tyner is developing a risk-based support system to help state utility commissions account for these risks and improve the security of the grid.

Tree type and fire intensity influence soil carbon storage in forest ecosystems

Fire is a major ecosystem disturbance that can temporarily shift a forest from being a net carbon sink to a large source of atmospheric CO2 and aerosols, affecting the global carbon cycle and climate. Professor Tim Filley uses stable isotope “tracer” experiments to track carbon through forest ecosystems, including how the carbon is stored in soils after a fire.

Pushing (and Installing) the Right Buttons: How a cognitive and cultural evolutionary perspective on social norms can help address climate change

Years of research conducted by social psychologists working on understanding how people process and respond to climate change information have centered on understanding the emotional and social nature of climate change denial, or the ways in which the challenges of climate change make up a “perfect storm.” Professor Dan Kelly takes a look at the problem in a different way.

Leadership and Strength in Utqiagvik, Alaska

For nearly a decade, professor Laura Zanotti has been working with Alaska Native communities in Utqiaġvik to provide a detailed ethnographic picture of the ways in which the communities are responding to climate change.

Evidence disproving tropical 'thermostat' theory

It was long thought that when the Earth warmed in the past, temperatures in the tropics did not get too hot because they were strictly limited or “regulated” by Earth’s so-called “thermostat.” New research from professor Matthew Huber shows otherwise—the tropics did heat up in the past, and it resulted in widespread dead zones.

New science of climate change impacts on agriculture shows higher social cost of carbon

The ‘social cost of carbon’ is used to report on the economic damage caused by greenhouse gases.  Professor Thomas Hertel and Dr. Uris Baldos show that this calculation is outdated and underestimated. Analysis of climate impacts on agriculture finds that the social cost of carbon is twice as large as previously estimated. This makes us wonder what would analysis of all economic sectors show?

U.S.-China: A multi-scale integrated modeling approach to managing the transition to sustainability

As global population continues to rise, concern is growing that the planet’s carrying capacity across the multiple and interacting dimensions of food, energy, and water systems is strained. A new project led by professors Matthew Huber and Thomas Hertel, and postdoctoral researcher Jing Liu is building a U.S.- China collaboration to assess the tradeoffs needed to achieve sustainable FEW systems.

Earlier springs raise the risk of freeze damage

What’s the problem with an early spring? For trees, earlier springs raise the risk of freeze damage—from defoliation to tree death. Professor John Couture studies the influence of climate change on plants and insect ecology. He’s found that even a single spring freeze after budding can make trees more vulnerable to insect attack.

Better understanding of the tropical cyclone wind-pressure relationship

Historically, two common measurements of hurricane intensity—pressure and wind speed—have been used interchangeably. New research led by professor Dan Chavas explains the relationship between the two measurements, improving our physical understanding of hurricanes as well as the interpretation of real-time hurricane observations.

Arctic Warming Also Impacts Midlatitude Weather and Climate

There is increasing evidence that Arctic amplification--a phenomenon whereby the Arctic warms more quickly than the rest of the world--might strongly impact both weather and climate, not only in the Arctic region, but also in regions farther away. A recent study co-authored by Purdue Professor Yutian Wu found that a warming Arctic results in the Northern Hemisphere midlatitude tropospheric jet stream to shift toward the equator while causing the stratospheric polar vortex to weaken.

How to Design the Global Stocktake? Making or Breaking the International Climate Regime

The Paris Agreement, a treaty developed under the UNFCCC at COP21, sets an international framework to strengthen the global response to climate change. Much work remains to be done to design the processes for evaluating implementation of the Agreement, and Purdue professor Manjana Milkoreit (Political Science) has a new research project underway exploring one of these potential assessment mechanisms—the Global Stocktake.

How do African farm households respond to changes in current and past weather?

In the coming decades, climate change will bring higher temperatures, less precipitation and more rainfall variability to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The changing weather patterns will have a major impact on rain-fed agriculture, which will affect the welfare of 100s of millions of people in countries where the majority of the population are small holder farmers.

Severe thunderstorms are expected to occur more often in a warmer climate

Hazardous weather has caused more than $50 billion in damages in the U.S. over the last 30 years.  Will a warmer climate make these events more common? Worse? Professor Mike Baldwin and PCCRC postdoctoral researcher Kimberly Hoogewind use dynamical downscaling simulations to better understand the impact of climate change on dangerous winds, damaging hail, flash flooding, and tornadoes.

Greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural soils may be much larger than previously thought

Global estimates indicate that agriculture accounts for up to a third of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions; but direct emissions from agricultural soils are difficult to measure. Professors Richard Grant and Cliff Johnston, using a combination of field measurements and modeling, have found emissions from soils to be much larger than previously thought—in some cases by as much as 10 times larger.

Make it personal: attack the scientist and scare the consumer

In the U.S., climate change “skepticism” can be traced back to misinformation campaigns from the 1990s that called into question the legitimacy of climate science. Research from graduate student Heather Cann and professor Leigh Raymond suggests that climate policy opponents are using two new tactics—attack the integrity of climate scientists and scare consumers with negative impacts and ‘government overreach.’

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