Carbon Mitigation Initiative

CMI Science

CMI Science

CMI Science focuses on how terrestrial vegetation and the oceans soak up carbon and thereby determine the fraction of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted into the atmosphere that actually stays there. CMI science features close collaboration with Princeton’s neighbor, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) of the US Department of Commerce. Together CMI and GFDL are improving the understanding of how climate variability and departures from the historical frequency of extreme events, such as heat waves, droughts, and hurricanes, impact business and society. Another initiative is providing simplified models for understanding the movement of ice through narrow straits, which can affect flow and mixing in the ocean.

Research Highlights – At a Glance

Stephen Pacala: Plants lose water and take up carbon through stomates, and the ability to simulate their behavior under various conditions is an essential part of global climate models. The Pacala group has developed and tested a new hypothesis of stomate regulation that improves upon current models in predicting stomate behavior during drought.

Jorge Sarmiento: Modeling studies suggest that the ocean around Antarctica acts as a key sink for atmospheric CO2 and heat, thus mitigating global temperature increases caused by rising levels of CO2. However, ship-based observations needed to understand the processes behind this uptake are scarce in the harsh and remote Southern Ocean, particularly in winter. To combat the data shortage, Jorge Sarmiento is directing the first large-scale deployment of robotic floats equipped with biogeochemical measurement instruments in this region. The project is enabling unprecedented observations of pH, biological productivity, carbon cycling, and phytoplankton dynamics in the Southern Ocean and improving our ability to predict its future.

François Morel: The ongoing increase in atmospheric CO2 acidifies the surface ocean. The Morel group has documented highly significant effects of ocean acidification on the bioavailability of essential trace metals such as iron and zinc, which are known to limit the growth of phytoplankton and, hence, the productivity of ecosystems in large areas of the oceans. A newly developed electrochemical analytical method is the first to show a quantitative correspondence between metal “lability” and rates of biological uptake in natural seawater.

Michael Bender: Ice core studies from the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area in Antarctica have yielded ice dating back to 2,000,000 years ago, the oldest ever retrieved. Analysis of ice dating to 1,000,000 years ago suggests that links between climate and CO2 are similar to those of more recent glacial cycles.

Howard Stone: Climate changes involve atmospheric motions, ocean flows, and evolution of ice on land and in the sea. These dynamics are necessarily interrelated; insights into individual processes can help to illuminate poorly understood aspects of global climate dynamics, such as factors affecting the maintenance of sea ice cover in the Arctic basin. Sea ice cover can impact fresh water fluxes, local ecology and ocean circulation. Over the past year, the Stone group has continued to study the physical mechanisms involved in the development of ice bridges in narrow straits and has succeeded in providing simple predictors for the conditions required for the bridge formation and maintenance. The approach accounts for processes on length scales below those normally resolved in climate models.

Current Research Projects



Last update: March 27 2017
BP Princeton Environmental Institute © 2018 The Trustees of Princeton University
CMI is sponsored by BP.