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Atmosphere and Climate

Research Centers

Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE)

The Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE) works to understand how aerosol particles impact the environment, air quality and climate. An interdisciplinary team of scientists supports the center’s work and includes atmospheric, physical, biochemistry, analytical and organic chemists, oceanographers and marine biologists.

Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCCIA)

The Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCCIA) aims to build a more resilient future through the advancement of climate science, academic-community partnerships and adaptation strategies. The center’s work includes enhancing regional climate models, advancing research on natural variability versus climate change, applying scientific methods to inform adaptation strategies and pathways, providing science advisory services to at-risk communities, etc. In addition, CCCIA helps mobilize the many interdisciplinary researchers increasingly focused on climate impacts research throughout Scripps, UC San Diego and partner institutions to help communities better prepare for these threats and adapt to build a more resilient future.

Center for Western Weather and Water Extreme (CW3E)

The natural and socioeconomic systems that we depend upon are impacted by extreme weather events and their effects on water supply and flooding. The Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes works to revolutionize the physical understanding, observations, weather predictions, seasonal outlooks and climate projections of extreme events in Western North America, including atmospheric rivers, the North American summer monsoon and their impacts on floods, droughts, hydropower, ecosystems and the economy.

Research Areas

Atmospheric Aerosols and Chemistry

This field of study focuses on microscopic or nanoscopic solid or liquid particles in the atmosphere and their effects on the weather, climate and other systems.

Biochemistry and Greenhouse Gases

Researchers in this field study the interactions of the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans with ecosystems, weather and climate.

Climate Sciences

Climate sciences study the earth’s climate system, emphasizing the physical, dynamic and chemical interactions of the atmosphere, ocean, land, ice, terrestrial and marine biospheres. The field encompasses research across various time scales, including seasonal, interannual, centuries and millions of years. In addition, climate scientists examine climate changes induced by human activities.

Modeling and State Estimation of the Oceans, Atmosphere and Climate

Using high-performance computing systems, researchers in this field estimate and analyze past, current and future states and trends in the climate system.

Physical Oceanography

Physical oceanographers study the mechanisms of energy transfer through the sea and across its boundaries and the physical interactions of the sea with its surroundings, especially the ocean’s impact on the atmosphere’s climate.

Tropical Meteorology and Oceanography

Researchers study climate processes and ocean circulation, particularly in tropical regions.

Labs, Projects, Programs and Collaborations

Air-Sea Interaction Lab

The primary area of research is air-sea interaction, including the topics of surface wave dynamics, air-sea fluxes, upper ocean turbulence, including Langmuir circulations, and the remote sensing of ocean surface phenomena using electromagnetic and acoustic techniques.


AGAGE has measured the composition of the global atmosphere continuously since 1978. Worldwide, AGAGE stations on coastal or mountain sites provide accurate measurements allowing researchers to examine emission rates and lifetimes of anthropogenic chemicals that contribute most to global temperature rise.

Atmospheric Oxygen Research Group

Oxygen levels are decreasing globally due to fossil-fuel burning. The changes are too small to impact human health but aid researchers in studying climate change and carbon dioxide. The Scripps O2 Program measures changes in atmospheric oxygen levels from air samples collected at stations worldwide.

California Nevada Applications Program

Working with numerous California agencies, CNAP contributes to a better understanding of climate impacts on the California coast, including coastal storms and sea-level rise. CNAP also works with fire agencies in California, Nevada and across the Western U.S. to investigate the effects of climate and weather on wildfire.

Deep Decarbonization Initiative

The mission of the UC San Diego Deep Decarbonization Initiative is to help understand and guide the global economy as it moves toward net-zero carbon emissions. The aim is to understand how policymakers and investors shift from existing to new energy systems in the real world and the pace at which such transitions occur. It also explores how such shifts could be accelerated so that global carbon emissions tumble even as energy systems meet the needs of humanity.

Evan Research Group

Just a hundred miles to the east of San Diego, one of the largest inland lakes in the Western US is drying up due to human activity. To understand how the shrinking of the sea will impact the future frequency and intensity of dust storms, the Evan Research Group studies the dynamics of dust outbreaks in this region. The lab’s research site provides continuous measurements of aerosols, the structure of the boundary layer, water vapor and radiative fluxes. Researchers use the data to understand underlying physics and model estimates of regional dust activity.

Weather Extremes and Climate Impacts Analytics (WECLIMA)

WECLIMA studies relationships between regionally impactful weather extremes and large-scale climate variability and change. Researchers collaborate across disciplines to study impacts on public health, ecosystems, water resources, wildfire, energy and air quality.

Zero Carbon Action Plan (ZCAP)

The ZCAP lays out a strategy for putting Americans back to work to build a vibrant 21st century U.S. economy based on advanced technologies, good jobs, clean energy, climate safety and economic security. In addition, it offers a pathway to achieve net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 – thereby providing a basis for a dramatically ramped-up American contribution to the Paris Climate Agreement.

Featured Researchers and Professors

Vicki Grassian 

Distinguished Chair, Physical Chemistry; Distinguished Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, NanoEngineering, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Co-Director, Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE)

Atmospheric chemist Vicki Grassian studies the properties of aerosols and their effect on the global atmosphere, the chemistry of indoor surfaces and their impact on air quality and how manufactured nanomaterials impact the environment and human health.

Ralph Keeling

Professor, Geosciences; Climate Sciences; Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry

Ralph Keeling's research focuses on atmospheric composition, the carbon cycle and climate change. He is a leading investigator of the global oxygen cycle for his precise measurements and analysis techniques. Keeling developed a method to measure atmospheric oxygen levels utilizing interferometry techniques and pioneered the measurements of oxygen levels from air samples collected at stations worldwide. Measurements continue at nine sampling stations, extending from Ellesmere Island in northern Canada over the equator to two Antarctic stations.

Kimberly Prather

Professor, Climate; Atmospheric Sciences and Physical Oceanography; Climate Sciences; Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry

Atmospheric chemist Kimberly Prather researches humanity’s influence on our atmosphere and climate. After developing a unique method for the online characterization of atmospheric aerosols’ size and chemical composition, the Prather group is now performing studies worldwide to deepen understanding of the role of aerosols in climate change.

Ram Ramanathan 

Professor, Climate; Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography; Climate Sciences; Physical Oceanography

Ram Ramanathan is an atmospheric scientist who discovered the greenhouse effect of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) showed that a ton each of CFC-11 and CFC-12 has more global warming effect than 10,000 tons of CO2. This discovery established the now accepted fact that non-CO2 gases are a significant contributor to planet-warming and enabled the Montreal protocol to become the first successful climate mitigation policy. Ramanathan also served as the science adviser to Pope Francis’ Holy See delegation at the historic 2015 Paris climate summit. He is also the architect of the curriculum for "Bending the Curve: Climate Change Solutions," designed to empower a million climate champions worldwide to solve the climate change problem.

Jonathan Slade

Assistant Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Atmospheric chemist Jonathan Slade studies fundamental chemical and physical processes affecting the formation, evolution, toxicity and climate properties of atmospheric aerosols and their impact on air and water pollution and climate change.