Terrestrial Sciences Section

Arial view of a mountain valley with a river winding through

Who We Are

The Terrestrial Sciences Section (TSS) is part of Climate and Global Dynamics (CGD) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. TSS consists of a diverse group of researchers who explore topics related to the land surface. This involves the development of models and use of observations to support Earth systems research of natural and managed terrestrial ecosystems through improving scientific understanding of the carbon, water, and nutrient cycles, land use and land cover change, land-atmosphere interactions, and model uncertainty.

Researchers in TSS develop and use appropriate multiscale models of varying complexity, utilizing remote sensing, advanced analytical techniques, and observations to study the role of the terrestrial biosphere in the climate system. Section members are involved in developing the land/vegetation model used in the Community Earth System Model (CESM). This model, the Community Land Model (CLM), includes biogeophysics, biogeochemistry (carbon, nitrogen, dust, volatile organic compounds), hydrology, disturbance, land use, agriculture, and vegetation dynamics.

Much of the research conducted in our section and the knowledge generated from work in our lab informs our understanding of past, current, and future ecosystems and human landscapes with support for suitable (effective/efficient) and safe climate responses, including nature-based solutions for mitigation and intervention, as well as actionable science initiatives related to management, adaptation, and resilience in human and Earth systems. TSS provides a focal point for CGD and university ecological and hydrological research and serves as a resource to these communities in the use of CESM. A growing body of research in TSS is engaging with (and sponsored by) stakeholder communities, including water resources, forestry and wildfire hazards, agriculture, and fisheries, among others, to respond to their climate and environmental concerns.

Our Mission

To advance scientific understanding of the role of the terrestrial biosphere and related human activities in the Earth system through research, education, and outreach, while working in a collaborative and inclusive environment.

Specific Goals

  • Develop and use models, remote sensing, and other tools to study the exchanges of energy, momentum, and materials between the land, atmosphere, rivers, and oceans.
  • Understand the impacts of climate change on the terrestrial biosphere, including changes in vegetation, hydrology, and biogeochemistry.
  • Coproduce and communicate the results of our research to policymakers, stakeholders, and the public to provide society with the knowledge needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
  • Develop and offer training and tutorials for research tools that enhance and support the broader community of researchers.