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Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

Earth, Space Sciences

National security depends on science and technology. The United States relies on Los Alamos National Laboratory for the best of both. No place on Earth pursues a broader array of world-class scientific endeavors.

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A team of scientists is working to understand how local changes in hydrology might bring about major changes to the Arctic landscape, including the possibility of a large-scale carbon release from thawing permafrost. Bryan Travis, an expert in fluid dynamics, is author of the Mars global hydrology numerical computer model, or MAGHNUM, used for calculating heat and fluid transport phenomena. (MAGHNUM was previously used to model hydrological phenomena under freezing conditions on other planets, including Mars.) Travis advanced the MAGHNUM software with a variety of improvements and additional components into a new program, called ARCHY, a comprehensive Arctic hydrology model. A Los Alamos National Laboratory team's goal is to make ARCHY capable of accurately modeling Arctic topography, thawing, and erosion. Because it includes advective heat transport, ARCHY will help to predict how quickly and how extensively the Arctic permafrost will thaw.


Giday Woldegabriel

Giday Woldegabriel, Geologist

Earth and space sciences span from the Earth’s core, to the Sun’s atmosphere, to stellar explosions at the infancy of our universe.

Our research and development programs support each of the Lab’s three missions: ensuring the safety, security, and reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent; reducing global threats; and solving emerging national security challenges, especially in energy security. This capability has elements spread across the Laboratory.

By conjoining basic research and weapons program needs in the earth and space sciences, our research has expanded rapidly.

Today, we continue to address our original missions but also apply our capabilities to a wide range of national and energy security issues, from assessing the safety of underground carbon dioxide sequestration sites to monitoring and analyzing human and natural activities and processes from space.

Research directions

 Roger Wiens on Mars Curiosity rover

Roger Wiens on Mars Curiosity rover

  • Atmospheric science
  • Carbon management
  • Climate processes
  • Computational science
  • Ecology
  • Energy systems analysis
  • Engineering
  • Environmental science
  • Environmental transport
  • Geochemistry
  • Geology
  • Geomaterials
  • Geophysics
  • Hydrology
  • Monitoring, measurement, verification
  • Nuclear weapons effects
  • Predictive modeling
  • Repository science
  • Waste characterization
  • Water resources


The Los Alamos focus in this area began in 1963 with the Laboratory support for verification of the Limited Test Ban Treaty and to ensure the containment of nuclear tests. It had the additional goal of enhancing U.S. capability in the broader arena of nuclear threat detection.

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