Towards seamless carbon cycle prediction: from data assimilation to emergent constraints

Kevin Bowman, JPL Science, NASA

Friday, February 14, 2020 - 3:30pm

The Paris Agreement was a watershed moment in providing a framework to address the mitigation of climate change.  The Global Stocktake is a bi-decadal process to assess progress in greenhouse gas emission reductions in light of climate feedbacks and response.   However, the relationship between emission commitments and concentration requirements is confounded by  complex natural and anthropogenic biogeochemical processes modulated by climate feedbacks.  

We investigate the prospects and challenges of mediating between emissions and concentrations along with the predictability of their trajectory. Our primary tool is the NASA Carbon Monitoring System Flux (CMS-Flux), which is an inverse modeling and data assimilation system that ingests a suite of observations  across the carbon cycle to attribute atmospheric carbon variability to anthropogenic and biogeochemical processes.

We use this tool to address an essential question for the Stocktake: the predictability of the  carbon cycle.  We look at this question through several angles.  We ingest data  into a  carbon cycle model using a Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) technique that explicitly incorporates non-Gaussian behavior and use those solutions to characterize the trajectory of carbon dynamics.  We further consider the coevolution of air quality and carbon in conjunction with an advanced chemical data assimilation system to determine the likely direction of the anthropogenic carbon footprint.  We then consider predictability  and observability within a hierarchical emergent constraint (HEC) framework, which is used to investigate both short-term predictions and  carbon-climate feedbacks.   These elements taken together are core components  of a carbon attribution and prediction system needed to assess the efficacy of carbon mitigation strategies. 

Dr. Bowman is an Engineering and Science Directorate Principal at the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institue of Technology and a research scientist at the Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering at the University of California Los Angeles.  He serves as the Principal Investigator for the NASA Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer instrument launched aboard the Aura spacecraft in 2004, the Project Scientist for the TRopospheric Ozone and Its Precursors from Earth System Sounding (TROPESS),  as well as the Principal Investigator of the NASA Carbon Monitoring System Flux Project.   His diverse research  interests spans climate, air quality, carbon cycle,  and satellite remote sensing. He received his bachelor's degree at Auburn Unviversity, his masters and Phd at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and did graduate work at the Ecole Superieure d'Electricite in Metz, France. He is also an avid jazz guitarist and founding member of the JPL Jazz Propulsion Band.  More information about Dr. Bowman can be found at

Seminars generally take place in 116 Old Chemistry Building on Fridays from 3:30 - 4:30 pm. For additional information contact: or phone 919-684-8029. Sorry, but we do not have reprints available. Please feel free to contact the authors by email for follow-up information, articles, etc. Reception following seminar in 203B Old Chemistry.

Old Chemistry 116

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