Earth’s Mass and Rotation

The experts at Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) have made significant contributions to the understanding of the way the Earth works as a dynamic system. Our studies include interactions among components of the Earth’s system, especially those related to momentum, energy, and moisture.

Our scientists have developed models and comprehensive data sets that advance research throughout the world and also address interests of specific clients in government and industry.

Global climate model and system assessment

Sea level, ice and gravity
Our scientists continue to study the interaction of land ice and the hydrological cycle with variability in sea level at a variety of time scales. As land ice melts or as drought affects a large river basin, the loading of the solid Earth and its local gravitational field changes, which can lead to corresponding variations in sea level, either through changes in the ocean bottom or in the gravitational forces felt by the ocean. Scientists at AER are busy understanding how these coupled ocean-solid Earth processes can impact coastal regions that are vulnerable to sea level change.

Angular momentum

Scientists at AER have organized and studied major portions of global weather analyses as well as run and analyzed ocean models. Results have been used to diagnose the global angular momentum budget, involving momentum exchanges between the atmosphere, oceans, and solid Earth. The work demonstrates that an especially close link exists between variations in the overall strength of atmospheric winds and small but measurable changes in Earth's rate of rotation. We supply relevant data via a formal data center, the Special Bureau for the Atmosphere of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Frames Service (SBA/IERS). Other aspects of Earth motions and orientation are closely related to a combination of atmospheric and oceanic influences. In particular, AER researchers have found that changes in ocean bottom pressure also contribute to the Earth's wobbling motions.