Reno, NV, United States

Desert Research Institute

www.dri.edu/
Reno, NV, United States

The Desert Research Institute is the nonprofit research campus of the Nevada System of Higher Education , the organization that oversees all publicly supported higher education in the U.S. state of Nevada. At DRI, approximately 440 research faculty and support staff engage in more than $27 million in environmental research each year. DRI's environmental research programs are divided into three core divisions and two interdisciplinary centers . Established in 1988 and sponsored by AT&T, the institute's Nevada Medal awards "outstanding achievement in science and engineering". Wikipedia.


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Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: CLIMATE & LARGE-SCALE DYNAMICS | Award Amount: 178.32K | Year: 2015

The solar heating of the Earth is affected by aerosols emitted from human activites including agriculture (for instance the burning of crop residue after the harvest), power generation (including both sulfate aerosol which reflects solar radiation and black carbon aerosol that absorbs it), and transportation. The radiative effects of these anthropogenic aerosols are hard to quantify, and their climatic effect is among the largest uncertainties in projections of future climate change. The goal of this project is to develop observationally-based estimates of the radiative forcing due to anthropogenic aerosols using the best available satellite and surface-based datasets. More specifically, the research seeks to produce estimates of the effective radiative forcing from aerosol-radiation interactions (ERFari), which includes both the radiative effects of the aerosols and the changes in radiative forcing due to changes in clouds brought about by aerosol radiative heating. For example, the heating due to absorption of solar radiation by black carbon aerosols (soot) can lead to the burn off of clouds, resulting in more sunlight reaching the ground. Data used to determine aerosol amounts, vertical profiles, and radiative parameters comes from several satellite missions ( (MODIS, the CALIPSO/CALIOP lidar, MISR, CERES) and from the ground-based AERONET network. The aerosol amounts and properties are used in combination with a radiative transfer model (MACR) to determine the aerosol radiative forcing. The radiative forcing is then used as an input to global climate models, from which estimates of the further impact of aerosols on cloud radiative forcing are determined. Model-derived estimates of the cloud radiative properties are then compared to further satellite cloud observations. A key assumption of the project is that fine-mode aerosols can be used as a proxy for anthropogenic aerosols, provided that known natural sources of fine-mode aerosol (dust, marine sulfate, sea salt) can be factored out.

The work has broader impacts due to the potential importance of anthropogenic aerosol as a regional and global climate forcing. Work to reduce the large uncertainty in this climate forcing could lead to better projections of future climate change and its impacts on human activities. In addition, the project would support a graduate student and provide a research opportunity for an undergraduate student at an ethnically diverse university. One of the PIs also performs outreach to local K-12 students through a local nonprofit organization.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: DYN COUPLED NATURAL-HUMAN | Award Amount: 1.47M | Year: 2015

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Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 397.28K | Year: 2015

This proposal focuses on the study of brown carbon and its contribution to light absorption in the atmosphere. A significant portion of brown carbon emissions in the atmosphere has been associated with biomass burning during wildfires, such as forest and peat fires. In this project, fuels from a representative set of five wild land fuels will be burned under laboratory conditions. The researchers will use advanced techniques to determine the chemical composition and optical properties of the brown carbon produced. This research will greatly advance our knowledge of atmospheric aerosols and their impact on air quality and climate.

Biomass burning experiments will be carried out using fuels from five different locations around the world: boreal forest and peat land, Siberia, Russia; extra tropical forest, Oregon, USA; tropical forest and peat, Brazil; coastal swamp peat, Florida, USA; and mixed conifer forest, Sierra Nevada mountains, USA. Highly resolved, quantitative chemical speciation of both gas and particle phases will contribute to the understanding of the volatility and reactivity of brown carbon compounds in biomass-burning emissions. Both the water-soluble and water-insoluble fractions of the organic aerosol will be analyzed with a variety of techniques to
determine their speciation and absorption spectrum. The researchers will attempt to obtain closure on the light absorption by comparing model calculations of the optical properties based on knowledge of the chemical constituents and the measured optical properties of biomass burning smoke.


Wilcox E.M.,Desert Research Institute
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics | Year: 2012

Observations from Earth observing satellites indicate that dark carbonaceous aerosols that absorb solar radiation are widespread in the tropics and subtropics. When these aerosols mix with clouds, there is generally a reduction of cloudiness owing to absorption of solar energy in the aerosol layer. Over the subtropical South Atlantic Ocean, where smoke from savannah burning in southern Africa resides above a persistent deck of marine stratocumulus clouds, radiative heating of the smoke layer leads to a thickening of the cloud layer. Here, satellite observations of the albedo of overcast scenes of 25 km 2 size or larger are combined with additional satellite observations of clouds and aerosols to estimate the top-of-atmosphere direct radiative forcing attributable to presence of dark aerosol above bright cloud, and the negative semi-direct forcing attributable to the thickening of the cloud layer. The average positive direct radiative forcing by smoke over an overcast scene is 9.2±6.6 W mg -2 for cases with an unambiguous signal of absorbing aerosol over cloud in passive ultraviolet remote sensing observations. However, cloud liquid water path is enhanced by 16.3±7.7 g m -2 across the range of values for sea surface temperature for cases of smoke over cloud. The negative radiative forcing associated with this semi-direct effect of smoke over clouds is estimated to be-5.9±3.5 W m -2. Therefore, the cooling associated with the semi-direct cloud thickening effect compensates for greater than 60 % of the direct radiative effect. Accounting for the frequency of occurrence of significant absorbing aerosol above overcast scenes leads to an estimate of the average direct forcing of 1.0±0.7 W m -2 contributed by these scenes averaged over the subtropical southeast Atlantic Ocean during austral winter. The regional average of the negative semi-direct forcing is-0.7±0.4 W m -2. Therefore, smoke aerosols overlaying the decks of overcast marine stratocumulus clouds considered here yield a small net positive radiative forcing, which results from the difference of two larger effects. © 2012 Author(s).


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ARCTIC NATURAL SCIENCES | Award Amount: 138.04K | Year: 2015

The main goal of the proposed work is to provide the first reliable record of pre-industrial carbon monoxide (CO) concentration and stable isotope composition in the Arctic atmosphere, which would also be representative of a large part of the Northern Hemisphere. Carbon monoxide concentrations are a crucial component of any complete modern or past atmospheric data set because CO plays a key role in global atmospheric chemistry by being the largest single sink of hydroxyl radicals in the lower atmosphere. Carbon monoxide concentration in combination with stable isotopes is also a powerful tracer for large-scale biomass burning variations. Pre-industrial carbon monoxide concentration in the northern hemisphere (where anthropogenic impacts have been by far the strongest) is poorly characterized, with prior measurements made using an older technique in the 1990s on only a few samples from one ice core. No published carbon monoxide isotope measurements from northern hemisphere ice cores are currently available.

The investigators propose to collect a new large diameter ice core near Summit, Greenland using the Blue Ice Drill (BID), providing ice from 80 to 170 meters depth (air age from about 1960 to about 1600 AD). Continuous measurements of carbon monoxide concentration would provide a high-resolution record over the entire ice core and identify ice layers where carbon monoxide is well preserved. High-precision discrete analyses of carbon monoxide concentration and isotopic composition would then target ice from these layers. Continuous analyses of trace chemistry and discrete analyses of trace organics would also be conducted to establish the ice core chronology and improve understanding of mechanisms of in situ carbon monoxide production in ice. Atmospheric histories for carbon monoxide concentration and isotopic composition would be derived using a combination of firn-ice gas transport and inverse models, and the implications for pre-industrial carbon monoxide budget would be investigated with the use of a climate-chemistry model. The proposed approach maximizes the chance of obtaining a reliable history of carbon monoxide concentration and isotopic composition through careful site selection and the application of novel ice drilling and analytical techniques. Results from the study will be made available to the scientific community and the general public through the NSIDC and NOAA Paleoclimatology data centers. The work will contribute to the training of two graduate and 2 undergraduate students, support an early career investigator, and establish several new collaborations among the investigators. The investigators have a strong history of and commitment to scientific outreach in the forms of media interviews, participation in educational films, as well as speaking to schools and the public about their research, and will continue these activities as part of the proposed work.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY | Award Amount: 294.99K | Year: 2015

This project is a collaborative effort by Desert Research Institute and Michigan Technological University to provide insight into the emissions of nitrogen-containing compounds from the combustion of peat soils. Preliminary estimation suggests that nitrogen emissions from fires in peatlands can potentially rival that of fossil fuel combustion. An accurate assessment of the global nitrogen cycling requires a detailed understanding of the various nitrogen-containing compounds emitted during peat fires and the factors affecting their partitioning into the gas and particle phases and the changes that they undergo in the atmosphere with age.

The main hypothesis of the proposed work is that an important fraction of peat fuel nitrogen (N) is contained in particulate organic nitrogen (PON), and that this fraction changes during photochemical processing in the atmosphere. The objectives of the research are: 1) to evaluate the partitioning of peat soil N into gas and particle-phase components as a function of peat fuel type and combustion efficiency, with a particular focus on quantifying the PON fraction; and 2) to assess how the oxidation (aging) of smoke by hydroxyl (OH) radicals alters the abundance and chemical properties of the PON.

The proposed work is expected to advance the understanding of the importance of peat fires for global N cycling and atmospheric chemistry. The research results will be distributed to US natural resource managers through a webinar, which may inform their decision-making on peatland restoration and preservation. A high school science teacher involved in this research will help develop material for engaging students in hands-on activities related to biomass burning, fire ecology, and atmospheric chemistry implications of these fires.


Patent
Desert Research Institute | Date: 2015-07-29

Disclosed herein are signal identification methods and systems. In some examples, the method and/or system allows appliances to be associated with their electrical usage. In one example, a method for determining whether a load is in a steady state or in transition includes analyzing a time series of electric power or current measurements on at least one circuit, at least one load coupled to the at least one circuit; and determining whether the load is in a steady state or a transition. Also disclosed is an appliance identification method. Further disclosed is a method of mapping unlabeled appliances which utilizes a STEC Table which summarizes linkages between transitions and steady state clusters.


Patent
Desert Research Institute and University of Delaware | Date: 2016-03-21

Methods and computer readable storage mediums for identifying structurally or functionally significant amino acid sequences encoded by a genome are disclosed. At least one structurally or functionally significant amino acid sequence encoded by a genome may be identified by compiling an observed frequency for each of a plurality of amino acid words encoded by the genome, calculating with a computer an expected frequency for each of the plurality of amino acid words encoded by the genome, and identifying at least one structurally or functionally significant amino acid sequence encoded by the genome based at least in part on the observed and expected frequencies for each of the plurality of amino acid words encoded by the genome.


Patent
Desert Research Institute and University of Delaware | Date: 2016-03-21

Provided are methods, systems, and computer readable media for comparing word statistics between a significant amino acid sequence and a significant nucleotide sequence.


Patent
Desert Research Institute | Date: 2015-06-12

In one embodiment, the present disclosure provides a method for producing a solid fuel. A feedstock that includes algae or delipidized algal residue and a liquid carrier is heated to a suitable temperature, at a suitable pressure, and for a suitable amount of time to form a desired amount of solid hydrochar. The hydrochar is collected and compressed into a compressed solid.

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