The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL)
A world leader in new knowledge about climate
The climate has never been hotter - as a topic of debate, that is. And never has it been more important to have a fundamental understanding of natural climate variability and human influence on climate.
The research community at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) is committed to producing timely and reliable information about our climate. GFDL scientists are world leaders in the study of the physical and biogeochemical processes that drive the behavior of the atmosphere and the oceans.
Our atmosphere and oceans are complex fluid systems that are shaped by the Earth's biosphere, topography and other factors. These systems can be modeled using mathematical equations and computer simulations. GFDL researchers analyze current and historical climate observations to assist in developing and improving climate models.
The knowledge generated at GFDL leads to real-life benefits, such as more accurate weather forecasts, improved predictions of hurricanes and other extreme weather events, and a better understanding of long-term changes in climate.
Located on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus, GFDL is home to scientists that regularly interact with University faculty, research scientists and graduate students as part of Princeton's Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program. GFDL's scientists come from a variety of disciplines including physics, geosciences, chemistry and computational sciences.
GFDL research falls into the following areas:
Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry: GFDL scientists are developing models to understand the three-dimensional structure of the climate system from the surface of the Earth to the outer edge of the atmosphere. This includes modeling the roles of clouds, sunlight and wind in climate and climate change. These researchers also investigate the effect of industrial pollutant emissions on air quality.
Climate and Ecosystems: The living creatures on Earth, encompassing everything from plants to humans, can profoundly affect climate. A group of GFDL scientists are exploring the interactions of the Earth's biosphere with its climate.
Climate Diagnostics: Monitoring climate is an essential component of GFDL's activities. Observations of temperature, winds, ocean currents help shape the models that researchers use to make predictions about future climate behavior.
Climate Change, Variability and Prediction: A central mission of GFDL is to understand climate variability on time scales that range from one season to several centuries.
Oceans and Climate: The world's oceans play an important role in exchanging heat with the atmosphere. The oceans also act as carbon storage areas. This active area of research looks at how the oceans influence climate.
Weather and Atmospheric Dynamics: Extreme weather events such as hurricanes can have severe human consequences. GFDL researchers are focused on improving our understanding of these phenomena with the goal of improving our predictions and understanding the role that climate change may play in extreme weather events.
GFDL began operating in 1955 and is led by Venkatachalam "Ram" Ramaswamy, director of GFDL. "What has been most special in the last 50 years," said Ramaswamy in a profile on GFDL's web site, "is the expansion of knowledge on climate processes, variations and change – on the short and long timescales, and including the emergence of the knowledge of human influence on climate. There is influence through both natural factors and human factors, and the latter's role has become evident in the climate trends of the past half-century."