Los Alamos National Labs with logo 2021

Computational Earth Science

We develop and apply a range of high-performance computational methods and software tools to Earth science projects in support of environmental health, cleaner energy, and national security.

Contact Us  

  • Group Leader
  • Jolante Van Wijk
  • (505) 570-9380
Profile pages header

Computational Earth Science researchers developed FIRETEC, a R&D 100 award-winning physics-based wildfire model, which is utilized by prescribed burn managers to understand how complex interactions between factors like topography, wind, fuels, and surrounding atmosphere drive fire behavior.

Providing realistic, data-driven models for improved prediction

The Computational Earth Science Group (EES-16) includes two teams, Subsurface Flow and Transport (SFT) and Applied Terrestrial Energy and Atmospheric Modeling (ATEAM). These teams combine basic and applied research to develop novel and integrated modeling and analysis platforms, including high performance modeling, to address practical problems for federal and industrial agencies. Project collaboration between SFT and ATEAM includes clean energy, carbon sequestration, sustainable unconventional fossil resource extraction, subsurface environment remediation and management, surface and subsurface hydrology and geothermal energy.

Our Science:

Atmospheric Modeling

  • Researching microscale, mesoscale and global scale atmospheric phenomena.
  • Applying our acclaimed HIGRAD/FIRETEC hydrodynamic software to wildland and urban fire propagation, and to develop better energy materials such as stronger and more efficient wind turbines.
  • Simulating electromagnetic pulse signatures to characterize lightning and security threats. 

Subsurface Flow and Transport Processes

  • Researching chemical interactions with time, the environment, and movement through soil, rock, and water. Developing and applying models to predict flow and transport of multi-phase fluids in subsurface porous and fractured media.
  • Improving geothermal and oil/gas extraction. 

Nuclear Nonproliferation and Global Security

  • Characterizing gas migration from subsurface nuclear explosions through the subsurface as well as atmospheric radionuclide transport.
  • Designing and testing nuclear waste repositories.

All the application areas utilize data analytics and data integration methods for uncertainty quantification and quantitative decision analysis and decision support.

Primary Expertise

Fossil Energy

  • We have R&D roles studying chemical and physical interactions to improve extraction efficiency, reduce water usage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We also develop process models, infrastructure optimization models, and risk/performance assessment tools to support critical national decisions.

High Performance Computing: Subsurface Flow and Transport

  • We develop advanced computational methods to model flow and transport in porous and fractured geologic media and coupled thermal-hydrologic-chemical-mechanical processes. In addition to numerical codes, Uncertainty Quantification (UQ) and Parameter Estimation (PE) are key EES-16 capabilities.

Wildfire, Regional Climate, and Wind Energy

  • Utilizing leadership-class parallel computers and advanced numerical methods, the HIGRAD/FIRETEC suite of codes enable detailed simulation of atmospheric dynamics and coupled atmospheric-wildfire interactions.

Other Critical Capabilities

  • Geologic characterization and numerical mesh generation support subsurface flow projects. Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) simulation supports critical weapons phenomenology programs.
  • Machine learning
  • Quantum computing to support subsurface research.
Research Directions
  • Clean energy including fossil and wind.
  • Climate-impact realization.
  • Environmental management.
  • Microscale, mesoscale, and global-scale atmospheric phenomenology.
  • Nuclear explosion-induced atmospheric physics.
  • Repository science for nuclear-waste disposal.
  • Subsurface flow and transport in porous and fractured media.
  • Wildfire and urban firestorm modeling and predictions.