Purdue University

Climate

The Earth's changing climate can no longer be considered a problem of the future. Scientists unequivocally agree that climate change is taking place and is being caused in large part by human activity. Researchers across all departments at Purdue are taking on issues of climate change in a myriad of ways, but much work remains to be done. This page highlights some of the many multidisciplinary projects related to climate change here at Purdue.

Click here to view past Indiana Climate Change Impact Assessments.

Seed Grants

In late 2021, the Purdue Climate Change Research Center awarded 9 seed grants to multiple Purdue faculty to help initiate new climate-related projects in areas ranging from diseases in wild animals and domestic livestock to smoke taint in wine. Read below for more on the faculty receiving funds and descriptions of their exciting new work. Congratulations to all the winners!

Assessing the role of climate in the re-emergence of hemorrhagic septicemia in wild animals and domestic livestock

PIs: Wendy Beauvais (VetMed); Lei Wang (EAPS)

This project's long-term aim is to determine the precise drivers of Hemorrhagic septicemia (HS) outbreaks and to predict the potential impacts of future climate scenarios. The overarching hypothesis is that HS is re-emerging as a result of climate change prolonging environmental survival of the causal agent. Ultimately, the team plans to develop novel, targeted approaches to improve surveillance, mitigation and control measures for this disease that has important food system and biodiversity impacts.

Downscaling and visualizing climate change scenarios to advance environmental justice and promote local action

PI: Yiwei Huang (HortLA)

Co-PIs: Tian Guo (Research Scientist, ABE); Keith Cherkauer (ABE, EEE); Venkatesh Merwade (Civil Eng)

This project will lay the foundation for the selection of appropriate visualization methods when
communicating climate change to different stakeholders that can be utilized by all associated disciplines
who work together to win local buy-in. The results from this seed project would be a first step towards
the development of more effective methods to promote climate change initiatives in the future that
showcase the national and regional impacts in “people’s backyards.”

Capturing diagenetic production of hydrocarbons in sediments towards carbon-neutral production of drop-in gasoline replacements

PI: Steve Lindemann (Food Sci)

Co-PI: Lisa Welp (EAPS)

Current biofuels approaches are typically limited to production of ethanol using yeast or recombinant bacteria. Both approaches typically require either purified sugars or harsh chemical pretreatment. Direct production of hydrocarbons from untreated biomass may permit synthesis of a drop-in replacement for gasoline and/or diesel at scale without significant investments of energy or chemical inputs, which would be very impactful in reducing net CO2 emissions. This project looks to nature for a potential solution by testing the hypothesis that the microbial mat of Hot Lake, a heliothermal lake in northern Washington, is diagenetically converted into hydrocarbons when interred in sediment.

Incorporating Community Agency in Reducing Uncontrolled Wildfires (ICARUS)

PIs: Zhao Ma (FNR); Jonathan Bauchet (AgEcon, HTM); Ricardo Godoy (Brandeis University)

This project seeks to address knowledge gaps in causes and prevention of wildfires in Bolivia via a pilot research project. The pilot project, in collaboration with local actors and organizations, seeks to answer three questions: (1) When, where, and why do fires used by different actors escape and become uncontrolled? (2) What are the roles of land tenure, local ecological knowledge, and current fire prevention and management practices in the emergence and spread of wildfires? (3) What are the opportunities for and barriers to promoting costeffective, equitable, culturally appropriate, and logistically feasible fire prevention and management practices to reduce fire risk and effect?

Andean vulcanism induced albedo as the cause and termination of the Little Ice Age

PIs: Greg Michalski (EAPS, Chem); Matt Huber (EAPS); H. Kory Cooper (ANTH); Cliff Johnston (AGRY); Chad Jafvert (Civil Eng); Lisa Welp (EAPS)

This project proposes a new hypothesis to explain global cooling that occurred between roughly 1500-1850, a period referred to as the Little Ice Age (LIA). A number of hypothesis have been proposed, with the current front runner being a few massive explosive volcanic events triggering an ice sheet and albedo feedback. This hypothesis suffers from the difficulty of both identifying the eruptions themselves, their timing, and that climate models seem at odds with tree ring proxies during this period. This project's hypothesis is, rather than several massive eruptions, the LIA was caused by increased volcanic activity in the Andean resulting in 300 years of sustained, medium to large volcanic eruptions. These in turn fed back on the extent and reflectivity of the Pacific marine stratocumulus clouds and perhaps clouds globally, until this activity ceased in the mid 1800’s.

Understanding and Predicting the Tropical-Extratropical Relaying Pathways to Arctic Amplification

PI: Di Qi (MATH)

Co-PIs: James Garrison (Aero/Astro, ECE); Wen-Wen Tung (EAPS); Lei Wang (EAPS)

The Arctic has warmed at a rate double that of the global average over the past decades. This rapid warming and associated sea-ice decline, as well as glacier retreats, have had widespread ecological and economic impacts. Both observations and model simulations have suggested a “relay” of latent heating–atmospheric circulation anomalies from the tropics to mid- and high-latitudes in the winter. In addition, with favored conditions, the heating can lead to large-amplitude atmospheric waves in high latitudes and result in prolonged Arctic warming episodes. However, the actual physical processes are highly nonlinear and multiscaled. This proposal aims to resolve, from the fundamental level, significant obstacles to understanding and predictions of the pathways to Arctic Amplification through tropical-extratropical interactions.

Bioremediation of Smoke Taint in Wine by Engineered Yeast

PIs: Tor N. Tolhurst (Ag Econ); Christian E. Butzke (Food Sci); Eun Joong Oh (Food Sci)

The proposed project will create technology for the wine industry to adapt to climate-change related wildfires: engineered yeast to biologically remediate undesirable smoke-taint compounds in wine. During the winemaking process, the designed yeast will target and block phenolic compounds from smoke. Unlike existing technologies, the engineered yeast could be used with a winery’s existing equipment. Thus, even if the yeast provides similar levels of remediation to existing technologies, it would do so without their need for expensive, specialized equipment. The technology will therefore help producers of all sizes adapt to the challenge presented by more frequent, larger, and stronger climate-change related wildfires.

Quantifying snowpack decline in the Colorado River headwaters beyond the instrumental record using cosmogenic nuclides

PIs: Marissa Tremblay (EAPS); Keith Cherkauer (ABE, EEE); Nathaniel Lifton (EAPS)

The Colorado River supplies water to >40 million people and is used to irrigate 5.5 million acres of
land in the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. The River obtains 60-85% of its annual streamflow from Rocky Mountain snowmelt, and declines in snowpack thickness and duration in the Rocky Mountains have been documented over the past 70 years. This loss of snowpack has been attributed to increasing annual temperatures and decreasing cold season precipitation, both of which are causally linked to anthropogenic climate change. However, it is unclear whether snowpack loss began sooner than the observational record, and therefore what the ‘baseline’ of snowpack in the Colorado headwaters was prior to anthropogenic climate change. This project will use cosmogenic helium paleothermometry (CHP) to document the onset of snowpack loss at two pilot field sites in the Rocky Mountains of north-central Colorado.

Transforming Attitudes into Climate-Smart Action in Agriculture-Travel

PIs: Stacey Connaughton (Comm, PPRI); Kayla Joy Gerdes (Ph.D. Candidate, Comm); Sylvie M. Brouder (AGRY); Jeffrey J. Volenec (AGRY)

Climate change presents real threats to U.S. agricultural production, forest resources and rural economies. Producers and land managers across the country are experiencing these climate impacts on their operations through shifting weather patterns and increasingly frequent and severe storms, floods, drought and wildfires. These threats have significant implications not just for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners, but for surrounding communities as well as for peri-urban agriculture and US food security writ large. To develop a cohesive statement on evidence-based practice, the elected leadership of the Agronomy, Crop, or Soil Science Societies developed a survey seeking opinions from members and Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) professionals who work with farmers. This project will use preliminary results from the survey to develop and launch a more thorough assessment of scientific and practitioner knowledge of the interactions between climate change and agriculture.