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Atmosphere and Energy

Our climate and the air we breathe are affected by, and in turn affect, energy use and production through a complex set of processes. By analyzing those processes, we aim to gain a deeper understanding of the atmosphere and then design cleaner and more efficient energy systems, improving our health and environment and providing energy security for all.

The Atmosphere/Energy subprogram in Civil and Environmental Engineering, formed in 2004, combines atmospheric science with energy science and engineering. The program uses courses, research and public outreach to educate students and the public about the causes of climate change, air pollution and weather problems, and focuses on methods of addressing these problems through renewable and efficient energy systems. In addition, students learn about feedbacks between the atmosphere and renewable energy systems and the effects of the current energy infrastructure on the atmosphere.

Further Employment and Research

Our graduates of the program go on to work for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), companies, government agencies, public or private institutes, national research laboratories or educational institutes. Research is performed primarily at the PhD level, although MS and undergraduate students can become involved through a directed research course for credit, a student group or by working with a company on a research topic.

Atmospheric Research

Atmospheric research involves laboratory work, field measurements or three-dimensional computer modeling of the combined atmosphere, ocean and land surface. Lab activities may include work such as measuring the properties of organic particulate matter that forms in the atmosphere. In the field, researchers’ activities may include work measuring exposures to secondhand smoke, allergens and emissions from building materials.

Computer modeling is performed at a variety of spatial scales, from the globe down to the size of a building or smaller. Modeling studies may include examining the effects of air pollution particles on clouds, rainfall, water supply, ultraviolet radiation, the stratospheric ozone layer and climate; simulating the dispersion of toxic contaminants in an urban street canyon; studying the effects of aircraft exhaust and biomass burning on climate; studying the effects of carbon dioxide domes over cities on air pollution mortality, or studying the leading causes of global warming and their impacts.

Energy Research

Our energy research focuses on examining the resource availability of renewable energies such as wind, solar and wave, and studying optimal methods of combining renewable energies to match energy supply with instantaneous demand.

This type of work is generally done through a combination of data analysis, three-dimensional atmospheric computer modeling of wind, solar, wave and hydroelectric power resources, and transmission load flow computer modeling. The research has led to the world's first wind map from data based on the height of modern wind turbines.

Other energy research, performed through three-dimensional computer modeling, focuses on studies such as examining the effect of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on air pollution and the ozone layer, the effects of ethanol and diesel vehicles on air quality and climate,  the feedback of wind turbines to the atmosphere and the effects of climate change on wind and solar energy resources.

Stanford University
Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Professor John Dabiri's Field Laboratory for Optimized Wind Energy (FLOWE) was established with the support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to demonstrate innovative approaches to wind energy that have the potential to concurrently reduce the cost, size, and environmental impacts of wind farms. Activities at FLOWE include meteorological, power, and radar measurements of up to 24 portable, vertical-axis wind turbines in dozens of configurations, including the Stanford ‘S’ shown in this aerial footage.

Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A new study shows that wind, water and solar generators can theoretically result in a reliable, affordable national grid when the generators are combined with inexpensive storage.

Monday, June 8, 2015

One potential way to combat ongoing climate change, eliminate air pollution mortality, create jobs and stabilize energy prices involves converting the world's entire energy infrastructure to run on clean, renewable energy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

ANNA MICHALAK‘s study of the Earth’s climate could soon take a giant leap forward, when a newly launched satellite begins to deliver the most comprehensive available measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide ever obtained.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

His breakout role was in Titanic, so LEONARDO DICAPRIO should know about looming disasters.

The uber-celebrity and recently named UN “messenger of peace” addressed the opening of the body’s Climate Summit on Sept. 23, urging the delegates to make meaningful progress toward solutions.

Stanford professor’s calculations indicate that wildfires and other types of fires involving plant matter play a much bigger role in climate change and human health than previously thought.

Adjunct Professor
Adjunct Professor

New research outlines the path to a possible future for California in which renewable energy creates a healthier environment, generates jobs and stabilizes energy prices.


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