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University of Maryland Expands Office of Diversity & Inclusion Staff

April 10, 2018
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland announces the hiring of two new staff members in its Office of Diversity & Inclusion (ODI). Carlton Green, Ph.D., has been appointed as Director of Diversity Training and Education, and Neijma Celestine-Donnor as the Program Manager for Hate/Bias Response. They begin their new positions on April 9 and April 20, respectively. 

“As we anticipate the forthcoming findings and recommendations from the Joint Task Force, the Campus Climate Study, and the campus-wide external review of diversity and inclusion, these two highly qualified professionals will add critical skills and expertise to our institutional response,” said Dr. Roger L. Worthington, Chief Diversity Officer and interim associate provost. 

As Director of Diversity Training and Education, Green will lead ODI's Diversity Training and Education programming that promotes, supports and develops inclusive excellence at UMD. In this role, Green will develop a cohesive strategy for diversity training and education; implement and lead campus-wide discourse programs and events focused on diversity and inclusion; and collaborate with units across campus to assist faculty to support inclusive curricula and approaches to teaching.

Green has more than 20 years of experience working in higher education across departments, including student activities, multicultural services, residence life, academic affairs, athletics and counseling services. He joins ODI from UMD’s Counseling Center. Green has received UMD’s Division of Student Affairs Outstanding Service Award, as well as the Champion of Our Community Award by the LGBT Staff and Faculty Association. Green earned his Ph.D. and M.A. in counseling psychology from Boston College, and B.A. in ethnic studies and history from Southern Methodist University. 

As Program Manager for Hate/Bias Response, Celestine-Donnor will lead and facilitate an interdisciplinary team of professionals providing support to individuals, groups and communities affected by hate and bias. In this role, Celestine-Donnor will develop and deliver targeted training, workshops and awareness events, as well as collaborate on educational and outreach efforts to prevent and mitigate incidents of hate and bias on campus.

Celestine-Donnor is an expert in trauma services, and has routinely served as a counselor, trainer, technical consultant, and speaker for multiple public agencies charged with the safety, health and welfare of Maryland communities. She has years of experience working with victims of crime, abuse and exploitation and is certified as a Victim Assistance Professional through the Roper Victim Assistance Academy of Maryland. Celestine-Donnor holds a master’s degree in social work and is a licensed clinical social work supervisor. She also holds certificates in diversity management, project management and executive management from the Management and Strategy Institute. 

These two positions have been added to the Office of Diversity & Inclusion amidst the university’s ongoing work to create a safe and inclusive campus for its entire community. In addition to longstanding programs on diversity, over the past year, the university has invested millions into new trainings and initiatives, including implementing a streamlined protocol for hate-bias incident response, rolling out a campus-wide climate survey, and launching the Center on Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education. In addition, the university is comprehensively reviewing policies through a task force with the goal of shaping a more equitable, diverse and inclusive campus.  

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About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. Its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 60 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.9 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

University of Maryland Named a Tree Campus USA for 10th Consecutive Year

April 9, 2018
Contacts: 

Karen Petroff, 301-405-8925

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland was honored with the 2017 Tree Campus USA® recognition by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to promoting healthy trees and environmental stewardship . This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Tree Campus designation, with UMD making the list each year. 

UMD Ceremonial Tree Planing 2018

We are honored to yet again be recognized as a Tree Campus USA, said Charles Reuning, UMD’s chief facilities officer. As a campus that is an arboretum and botanical garden in itself, Maryland understands the stewardship needs of its urban forest, including consistent maintenance of our many campus trees and opportunities to involve the campus community.” 

In observance of Arbor Day at UMD, on Wednesday, April 4, the campus hosted a  tree planting ceremony near Glenn L. Martin Hall. This ceremonial willow oak planting served as an early installment of the campus wide Earth Month celebration. 

The Tree Campus USA program honors colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. University of Maryland achieved the title by meeting Tree Campus USA’s five standards, which include maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning project. Currently there are 344 campuses across the United States with this recognition and the University of Maryland is one 25 charter and continuing campuses to hold this honor.

“Students are eager to volunteer in their communities and become better stewards of the environment,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Participating in Tree Campus USA sets a fine example for other colleges and universities, while helping to create a healthier planet for us all.”

The Arbor Day Foundation has helped campuses throughout the country plant thousands of trees, and Tree Campus USA colleges and universities invested more than $48 million in campus forest management last year. More information about the program is available at arborday.org/TreeCampusUSA.

 

 

Four UMD Students Named 2018 Goldwater Scholars

April 6, 2018
Contacts: 

Abby Robinson, 301-405-5845 

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- Four University of Maryland undergraduates have been awarded scholarships by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation to pursue advanced degrees and research careers in the sciences, engineering and mathematics fields. In the past five years, UMD’s 20 nominations yielded 18 scholarships and two honorable mentions.

Head shot of Paul NevesPaul Neves, Lillian Sun, Tanay Wakhare and Eric Wang are among the 211 Barry Goldwater Scholars selected from 1,280 students nominated nationally this year. Scholars will receive one- or two-year scholarships that cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 per year. 

Paul Neves—a junior physics major who is also a member of the University Honors program in the Honors College and a Banneker/Key Scholar—is interested in magnetic materials, and will use his award to pursue a Ph.D. Neves has conducted research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Center for Neutron Research and the UMD Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials

“Paul has the instinct and raw talent to develop into a great scientist and already exhibits the motivation and maturity that are the foundation for success,” said his mentor Nicholas Butch, an adjunct assistant professor of physics at UMD and a physicist at the NIST Center for Neutron Research.

Headshot of Lillian SunLillian Sun—a junior pursuing double degrees in biological sciences and economics who is also a member of the Integrated Life Sciences program in the Honors College and a Banneker/Key Scholar—is interested in developing novel cancer vaccines, and has plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. Sun has previously interned at the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

“Lily possesses a remarkable ability to grasp complex biologic processes and critically think through experimental designs to answer hypothesis-based questions that guide a scientific story,” said her mentor Clint Allen, head of the NIDCD’s Translational Tumor Immunology Program and an assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Headshot of Tanay WakhareTanay Wakhare—a sophomore pursuing double degrees in mathematics and computer science who is also a member of the University Honors program in the Honors College and a Banneker/Key Scholar—is interested in combinatorics, a branch of mathematics that focuses on counting,and number theory, and will use his scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. Wakhare has interned at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis

“Tanay is an exceptionally talented young mathematician—by far the best student I have ever met in my career,” said Christophe Vignat, a professor of physics at the Universite Paris-Saclay and an invited professor of mathematics at Tulane University. “He has a very promising future in mathematics.”

Headshot of Eric WangEric Wang—a junior bioengineering major who is a member of the University Honors program in the Honors College and a recipient of a 2017 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Fellowship, a President’s Scholarship and an A. James Clark Scholarship—is interested in molecular dynamics, a computer simulation method for studying the physical movements of biomolecules, and will also pursue a Ph.D.

Wang has worked closely with several UMD professors and collaborated with researchers in the Membrane Biophysics Section of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health.  

“I have been impressed with Eric’s computational ability to quickly learn our techniques and to know when to ask versus figuring it out on his own,” said Klauda. “He is currently at the level I might expect from a top mid-level graduate student, not an undergraduate that has only worked in my lab for a year.”

The Goldwater Scholarship program was created in 1986 to identify students of outstanding ability and promise in science, engineering and mathematics, and to encourage their pursuit of advanced study and research careers. The Goldwater Foundation has honored 62 University of Maryland winners and five honorable mentions since the program’s first award was given in 1989.

To learn more about the UMD’s Goldwater scholars, please visit https://cmns.umd.edu/news-events/features/4119

 

UPDATE: University of Maryland Cancels Good Neighbor Day

April 5, 2018
Contacts: 

Golshan Jalali, 301-405-0043

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- The University of Maryland has cancelled its 7th Annual Good Neighbor Day, which was scheduled for Saturday, April 7, 2018. For more information, please visit https://oce.umd.edu/good-neighbor-day

State, University Officials Celebrate Launch of Newly Formed, Cross-Discipline Transportation Institute

April 3, 2018
Contacts: 

Anjanette Riley, 301-405-2057 

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – State and University of Maryland leaders gathered in Annapolis, Maryland today for the launch of a research and education institute that unites engineering, planning, social sciences, computer sciences, business, public policy, and public health experts. The Maryland Transportation Institute (MTI) will coordinate more than $20 million in annual research expenditures to spur innovation in the transportation sector.

Provost Rankin Addresses attendees

“Through its important research, this institute will help us remain one of the most innovative transportation departments in the country,” said Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn, who spoke at the event.

Led by the A. James Clark School of Engineering’s Herbert Rabin Distinguished Professor Lei Zhang, MTI was approved by UMD’s Office of the Provost last fall. The institute will focus on transportation big data, connected and automated transportation, congestion mitigation, freight and logistics, infrastructure planning and policy, transportation safety and security, smart cities and communities, and future mobility systems. 

“MTI harnesses the expertise of transportation researchers across the university to generate timely, practical solutions to some of the most complex challenges of the 21st century,” said Senior Vice President and Provost MaryAnn Rankin. “The University of Maryland has a long and rich history of advancing knowledge in areas of critical importance to the state, the nation, and the world.”

The institute leverages the largest transportation data and data analytics center in the nation and a U.S. Department of Transportation-designated National University Transportation Center. MTI also encompasses leading centers in smart growth, cybersecurity, GIS, logistics, sustainability, computer sciences, behavioral sciences, and public health. 

Maryland Transportation Institute Celebration Group Photo

“Transportation issues pervade every area of our lives and the lives of our communities,” said Zhang. “MTI will work with our government, nonprofit, and industry partners toward zero traffic fatalities, infrastructure construction and maintenance cost reduction, immediately deployable congestion mitigation technologies, and advanced transportation technologies to improve quality of life and economic development in our state and beyond.” 

The April 3 event featured a number of transportation technology solutions, including a mobile app that helps combat congestion by providing personalized travel incentives. The Center for Advanced Transportation Technology introduced attendees to a suite of decision-making tools backed by big data analytics, while undergraduate students from UMD Loop presented their design for the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition. Collaborators from Morgan State University’s Urban Mobility & Equity Center and the Department of Engineering and Aviation Sciences at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore also shared a cutting-edge driving simulator that helps reduce traffic accidents and a workforce development program for the aviation industry, respectively.

MTI was formed through support from 10 UMD colleges and schools: School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation; School of Arts and Humanities; College of Behavioral and Social Sciences; Robert H. Smith School of Business; College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences; A. James Clark School of Engineering; Philip Merrill College of Journalism; College of Information Studies; School of Public Health; and School of Public Policy.

 

 

 

Al Gore to Speak at University of Maryland’s 2018 Spring Commencement

April 2, 2018
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland announces today that former Vice President Al Gore will deliver the university’s commencement address on Sunday, May 20, 2018. Gore will address thousands of graduates, family and friends during the ceremony at the XFINITY Center, and will also receive an honorary doctorate of public service from the university.

"Vice President Gore’s ability to ‘look over the horizon’ while mastering the intricacies of action has earned him a Nobel Prize and a profound record of public service,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “We are honored and excited to have him as our commencement speaker.”

Al Gore Lecturing

Gore is the cofounder and chairman of Generation Investment Management, and the founder and chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit devoted to solving the climate crisis. He is also a senior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and a member of Apple Inc.’s board of directors.

Gore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, 1978, 1980, and 1982 and to the U.S. Senate in 1984 and 1990. He was inaugurated as the 45th vice president of the United States on January 20, 1993, and served eight years.

He is the author of the #1 New York Times best-sellers "An Inconvenient Truth" and "The Assault on Reason," and the best-sellers “Earth in the Balance,” "Our Choice: A Plan To Solve the Climate Crisis," "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change," and most recently, The New York Times best-seller "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.”

He is the subject of the documentary movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won two Oscars in 2006 -- and a second documentary in 2017, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.” In 2007, Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for “informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change.”

 

WeWork to Open First Maryland Location on University of Maryland Campus

March 30, 2018
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622
Mary Jennings, 501-920-6844

 WeWork Office RenderingWeWork Office Rendering

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Adding to the growing momentum in Prince George’s County, WeWork, a global leader in coworking with more than 200 locations in 21 countries around the world, has selected College Park for its first location in the State of Maryland. As part of a new partnership model, this will be the first WeWork on a college campus, located in the University of Maryland’s Discovery District.  

“WeWork is excited to be partnering with Chesapeake Realty Partners along with the University of Maryland for our first-ever college campus location,” said Nicole Mozeliak, WeWork’s General Manager for the Mid-Atlantic. “The vibrancy of the UMD campus, access to an amazing talent pipeline, and being part of their innovative ecosystem makes College Park the optimal choice for WeWork’s first location in the State of Maryland.” 

WeWork will be located adjacent to The Hotel at the University of Maryland in a repurposed building—just steps away from the center of campus—and across the street from Diamondback Garage, which will house university entrepreneurship resources and private sector companies, including Capital One’s Innovation Lab, and cybersecurity firms BlueVoyant and Immuta. 

“College Park is thriving and the Discovery District is proving to be a destination for startups and established companies alike to grow their businesses,” said Ken Ulman, UMD’s chief strategy officer for economic development. “We are proud that WeWork recognizes the University of Maryland is an economic engine helping to fuel the State’s innovation economy.”

The Discovery District is part of UMD’s Greater College Park initiative, a $2 billion public-private investment to rapidly revitalize the Baltimore Avenue corridor and academic campus, which includes dynamic academic spaces, a public-private research hub and vibrant downtown community. 

WeWork University of Maryland will offer coworking and office space, including more than 300 desks, conference rooms and communal areas . The space will include standard WeWork offerings, such as private offices, dedicated desks and hot desks. Hot desks give you unlimited access to any available workspace in the location of your choice, while dedicated desks give you unlimited access to your own workstation.

WeWork has been characterized as a leader and transformative in the coworking space, focusing on creating a culture of collaboration, flexibility and creativity. 

Baltimore-area based Chesapeake Realty Partners, a leader in adaptive reuse and land development, will be leading the design and construction. "Chesapeake Realty Partners is delighted to, once again, partner with WeWork to create an incredible coworking space -- this time located in the heart of the Discovery District within the University of Maryland," said Lawrence M. Macks, Co-Chairman and CEO. "UMD has proved to be a great partner for both WeWork and Chesapeake Partners, and we are proud to be involved with this transformational project." 

"Maryland is the most innovative state in the country, so it's the ideal place for WeWork to launch its first campus location," said Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill. "College Park is a hub for both entrepreneurship and cutting-edge research, and the vast pool of talent connected to the university will benefit from the array of workspaces WeWork has to offer." 

“Under the leadership of Dr. Wallace Loh, the University of Maryland, along with the City of College Park and Prince George’s County, have worked to transform College Park into a vibrant college town comparable with any in the nation,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III. “WeWork’s decision to locate its first college campus location in the nation in College Park is a testament to the progress made in achieving that goal. WeWork will be an exciting resource for the entrepreneurs, innovators and researchers that we want to see fuel the economic growth in the University of Maryland’s Discovery District.”

The news of WeWork’s location in College Park has local entrepreneurs eager to move in.

“WeWork will help bridge the gap between dorm room and laboratory startup to the next phase, providing students and faculty a world class co-working and office environment to incubate their nascent businesses,” said UMD Entrepreneur-in-Residence Harry Geller.

"There is so much great talent and work coming out of UMD, and projects like the new WeWork reaffirm that College Park is ready to support our entrepreneurs as they move into the next phases of their ventures," said Matthew Fan, co-director of the Startup Shell, a student-run incubator at UMD. 

WeWork University of Maryland is expected to open in fall 2018. 

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About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. Its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 60 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.9 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu.

About​ ​WeWork
WeWork is the platform for creators. We provide beautiful workspace, an inspiring community, and meaningful business services to more than 200,000 members around the world. From startups and freelancers to small businesses and large corporations, our community is united by a desire for our members to create meaningful work and lead meaningful lives—to be a part of something greater than ourselves. Co-founded by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey in New York City in 2010, WeWork is a privately held company with more than 3,000 employees.

About Chesapeake Realty Partners
Chesapeake Realty Partners builds on more than 70-years of success in the Mid-Atlantic real estate market. CRP has been actively engaged in all aspects of real estate development –  land acquisition, land planning and land development; construction of for-sale housing; construction and operation of residential rental communities; and construction and operation of commercial properties. The wide range of activities within our organization has been a singular advantage and source of financial strength and stability. In the '80’s leadership passed from founder Morton J. Macks to his son, Lawrence Macks, and his son-in-law, Josh Fidler. The business then evolved into its present form as a diversified builder-developer of large scale residential communities; multi-family communities, as well as commercial, retail and mixed use projects.

 

Multi-Institutional Team of Scientists Mix the Unmixable to Create ‘Shocking’ Nanoparticles

March 29, 2018
Contacts: 

Melissa L. Andreychek, 301-405-0292

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Making a giant leap in the ‘tiny’ field of nanoscience, a multi-institutional team of researchers is the first to create nanoscale particles composed of up to eight distinct elements generally known to be immiscible, or incapable of being mixed or blended together. Their blending of multiple, unmixable elements into a unified, homogenous nanostructure, called a high entropy alloy nanoparticle, greatly expands the landscape of nanomaterials—and what we can do with them.

Science Magazine Cover Story - Nanoparticles

This research makes a significant advance on previous efforts that have typically produced nanoparticles limited to three different elements. This is because it is extremely difficult to squeeze and blend different elements into individual particles at the nanoscale. The team of researchers from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Johns Hopkins University published a peer-reviewed paper on their research that is featured on the cover of  March 30 edition of the journal Science.

“Imagine the elements that combine to make nanoparticles as Lego building blocks. If you have only one to three colors and sizes, then you are limited by what combinations you can use and what structures you can assemble,” explained Liangbing Hu, associate professor of materials science and engineering at UMD and one of the corresponding authors of the paper. “What our team has done is essentially enlarged the toy chest in nanoparticle synthesis; now, we are able to build nanomaterials with nearly all metallic and semiconductor elements.”

The researchers say this advance in nanoscience opens vast opportunities for a wide range of applications that includes catalysis (the acceleration of a chemical reaction by a catalyst), energy storage (batteries or supercapacitors), and bio/plasmonic imaging, among others.

To create the high entropy alloy nanoparticles, the researchers employed a two-step method of flash heating followed by flash cooling. Metallic elements such as platinum, nickel, iron, cobalt, gold, copper, and others were exposed to a rapid thermal shock of approximately 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or about half the temperature of the sun, for 0.055 seconds. The extremely high temperature resulted in uniform mixtures of the multiple elements. The subsequent rapid cooling (more than 100,000 degrees Fahrenheit per second) stabilized the newly mixed elements into the uniform nanomaterial.

“Our method is simple, but one that nobody else has applied to the creation of nanoparticles. By using a physical science approach, rather than a traditional chemistry approach, we have achieved something unprecedented,” said Yonggang Yao, a Ph.D. student at UMD and one of the lead authors of the paper.

To demonstrate one potential use of the nanoparticles, the research team used them as advanced catalysts for ammonia oxidation, which is a key step in the production of nitric acid (a liquid acid that is used in the production of ammonium nitrate for fertilizers, making plastics, and in the manufacturing of dyes). They were able to achieve 100 percent oxidation of ammonia and 99 percent selectivity toward desired products with the high entropy alloy nanoparticles, proving their ability as highly efficient catalysts.

Elemental maps of high entropy alloy nanoparticles composed of eight dissimilar elements. Image courtesy Yao et al.

Yao said another potential use of the nanoparticles as catalysts could be the generation of chemicals or fuels from carbon dioxide.

“The potential applications for high entropy alloy nanoparticles are not limited to the field of catalysis. With cross-discipline curiosity, the demonstrated applications of these particles will become even more widespread,” said Steven D. Lacey, a Ph.D. student at UMD and also one of the lead authors of the paper.

This research was performed through a multi-institutional collaboration of Professor Liangbing Hu’s group and Professor Michael Zachariah’s group at the University of Maryland, College Park; Professor Reza Shahbazian-Yassar’s group at University of Illinois at Chicago; Professor Ju Li’s group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Professor Chao Wang’s group at the Johns Hopkins University.

What outside experts are saying about this research:

“This is quite amazing; Dr. Hu creatively came up with this powerful technique, carbo-thermal shock synthesis, to produce high entropy alloys of up to eight different elements in a single nanoparticle,” said Peidong Yang, the S.K. and Angela Chan Distinguished Professor of Energy and professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley and member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. “This is indeed unthinkable for bulk materials synthesis. This is yet another beautiful example of nanoscience!,” said Yang, who is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a 2015 recipient of a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship. Yang was not involved in this research.

“This discovery opens many new directions, said George Crabtree, Argonne Distinguished Fellow and director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at Argonne National Laboratory.  “There are simulation opportunities to understand the electronic structure of the various compositions and phases that are important for the next generation of catalyst design. Also, finding correlations among synthesis routes, composition, and phase structure and performance enables a paradigm shift toward guided synthesis.”  

 

 

The Sahara Desert is Expanding, According to New UMD Study

March 29, 2018
Contacts: 

Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267

COLLEGE PARK, Md-- The Sahara Desert has expanded by about 10 percent since 1920, according to a new study by University of Maryland scientists. The research is the first to assess century-scale changes to the boundaries of the world’s largest desert and suggests that other deserts could be expanding as well. The study was published online March 29, 2018, in the Journal of Climate.

image shows the 3 regions in North Africa: the Sahara, the Sahel, and the SudanDeserts are typically defined by low average annual rainfall—usually 100 millimeters (less than 4 inches) of rain per year or less. The researchers analyzed rainfall data recorded throughout Africa from 1920 to 2013 and found that the Sahara, which occupies much of the northern part of the continent, expanded by 10 percent during this period when looking at annual trends. 

When the authors looked at seasonal trends over the same time period, the most notable expansion of the Sahara occurred in summer, resulting in a nearly 16 percent increase in the desert’s average seasonal area over the 93-year span covered by the study.

“Our results are specific to the Sahara, but they likely have implications for the world’s other deserts,” said Sumant Nigam, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at UMD and the senior author of the study. Nigam also has a joint appointment in UMD’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC).

The study results suggest that human-caused climate change, as well as natural climate cycles such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), caused the desert’s expansion. The geographical pattern of expansion varied from season to season, with the most notable differences occurring along the Sahara’s northern and southern boundaries. 

“Deserts generally form in the subtropics because of the Hadley circulation, through which air rises at the equator and descends in the subtropics,” Nigam said. “Climate change is likely to widen the Hadley circulation, causing northward advance of the subtropical deserts. The southward creep of the Sahara however suggests that additional mechanisms are at work as well, including climate cycles such as the AMO.”

The Sahara is the world’s largest warm-weather desert, roughly equal in size to the contiguous United States. (The Arctic basin and the Antarctic continent—which are each about twice as large as the Sahara—also qualify as deserts due to their low rates of precipitation.) Like all deserts, the boundaries of the Sahara fluctuate with the seasons, expanding in the dry winter and contracting during the wetter summer. 

outside the town of Diakhao, Senegal in March of 2018, illustrates the conditions of the Sahel during the dry seasonThe southern border of the Sahara adjoins the Sahel, the semi-arid transition zone that lies between the Sahara and the fertile savannas further south. The Sahara expands as the Sahel retreats, disrupting the region’s fragile grassland ecosystems and human societies. Lake Chad, which sits in the center of this climatologically conflicted transition zone, serves as a bellwether for changing conditions in the Sahel. 

“The Chad Basin falls in the region where the Sahara has crept southward. And the lake is drying out,” Nigam explained. “It’s a very visible footprint of reduced rainfall not just locally, but across the whole region. It’s an integrator of declining water arrivals in the expansive Chad Basin.”

A number of well-known climate cycles can affect rainfall in the Sahara and the Sahel. The AMO, in which temperatures over a large swath of the northern Atlantic Ocean fluctuate between warm and cold phases on a 50- to 70-year cycle, is one example. Warm phases of the AMO are linked to increased rainfall in the Sahel, while the opposite is true for the cold phase. For example, the notable drying of the Sahel from the 1950s to the 1980s has been attributed to one such cold phase. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), marked by temperature fluctuations in the northern Pacific Ocean on a scale of 40 to 60 years, also plays a role.

To single out the effects of human-caused climate change, the researchers used statistical methods to remove the effects of the AMO and PDO on rainfall variability during the period from 1920 to 2013. The researchers concluded that these natural climate cycles accounted for about two-thirds of the total observed expansion of the Sahara. The remaining one-third can be attributed to climate change, but the authors note that longer climate records that extend across several climate cycles are needed to reach more definitive conclusions. 

“Many previous studies have documented trends in rainfall in the Sahara and Sahel. But our paper is unique, in that we use these trends to infer changes in the desert expanse on the century timescale,” said Natalie Thomas, a graduate student in atmospheric and oceanic science at UMD and lead author of the research paper. 

The study’s results have far-reaching implications for the future of the Sahara, as well as other subtropical deserts around the world. As the world’s population continues to grow, a reduction in arable land with adequate rainfall to support crops could have devastating consequences.

“The trends in Africa of hot summers getting hotter and rainy seasons drying out are linked with factors that include increasing greenhouse gases and aerosols in the atmosphere,” said Ming Cai, a program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funded the research. "These trends also have a devastating effect on the lives of African people, who depend on agriculture-based economies."

Thomas and Nigam are focused on learning more about the drivers behind desert expansion in the Sahara and beyond.

“With this study, our priority was to document the long-term trends in rainfall and temperature in the Sahara. Our next step will be to look at what is driving these trends, for the Sahara and elsewhere,” Thomas explained. “We have already started looking at seasonal temperature trends over North America, for example. Here, winters are getting warmer but summers are about the same. In Africa, it’s the opposite—winters are holding steady but summers are getting warmer. So the stresses in Africa are already more severe.”

This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Defense’s National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellowship Program and the U.S. National Science Foundation (Award No. AGS 1439940). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

Photo 1: This satellite-derived  image shows the three regions in North Africa: the Sahara, the Sahel, and the Sudan. The Saharan desert covers the northern, top part of the continent,. The Sahel, a semi-arid belt of barren, sandy and rock-strewn land, stretches across the African continent between the Sahara and the Sudan, which is the greener, more fertile southern portion in this image. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio. 

Photo 2: Taken outside the town of Diakhao, Senegal in March of 2018, the photo illustrates the conditions of the Sahel during the dry season. Credit: Mamadou Faye/courtesy Wassila Thiaw, NOAA CPC.

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About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. Its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 60 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.9 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu. 

 

 

 

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May 17
UMD study explores disagreement translating to success in complex projects or crisis situations. Read
May 11
Research opens the door for future stem cell research in chicken models. Read