Sonia Wharton

Deputy Group Leader
Atmospheric, Earth, and Energy Division
Phone: +19254229295


  • Ph.D., Atmospheric Science, University of California at Davis, 2008
  • B.S., Biology (Ecology Concentration), Environmental Studies, Baylor University, 1998

Research Interests

I am an atmospheric scientist specializing in boundary layer meteorology and field observations.  My research spans a wide number of applications including wind energy, land surface-atmosphere flux exchange processes, flow over complex terrain, and more recently, characterization of the whole atmosphere from ground to space. My wind energy experience ranges from deploying lidar and in situ instrumentation for improved characterization of the wind resource to evaluating turbine power performance response curves. I frequently plan and execute field campaigns to better understand atmospheric flow over complex terrain. Recent campaigns include the 2017 Solar Eclipse, DOE’s Second Wind Forecasting Improvement Project, and experiments at the Nevada Test Site. I am the PI of the Diablo Grassland AmeriFlux tower at Site 300 (Altamont, California) and the Wind River Old-Growth Forest AmeriFlux tower in Washington State. At these sites we are quantifying the biospheric carbon sink or source strength with the eddy covariance technique. Lastly, I am the PI of a whole atmosphere modeling project that is developing a capability to accurately model and characterize the atmosphere from ground to space for national security applications.

Professional Committees Served

  • 2016–2019, American Meteorological Society’s Board on Atmospheric Biogeoscience
  • 2016–2019, American Meteorological Society’s Committee on Agricultural and Forest Meteorology
  • 2012–2016, American Meteorological Society’s Committee on Renewable Energy
  • 2012, American Meteorological Society’s Policy Statement on Energy Production and Earth Observations: Drafting Team

Honors and Awards

  • 2016 SPOT Award, Physics and Life Sciences, LLNL, for recognition of community outreach
  • 2016 Global Security Directorate Bronze Award, LLNL, for recognition of successful IWS audit
  • 2014 Global Security Directorate Silver Award, LLNL, for recognition of wind energy research
  • 2012 Global Security Directorate Silver Award, LLNL, for recognition of educational outreach
  • 2012 SPOT Award, Physical and Life Sciences, LLNL, for recognition of Newsline article
  • 2012 SPOT Award, Physical and Life Sciences, LLNL, for recognition of community outreach
  • 2012 Global Security Directorate Bronze Award, LLNL, for recognition of work safety
  • 2012 Norbert Gerbier-MUMM International Award for carbon-climate links, World Meteorological Organization, in recognition of co-authorship of “Climate Control of Terrestrial Carbon Exchange Across Biomes and Continents”, Yi, C. et al.ERL (5) 2010
  • 2010 Outstanding Postdoctorate Fellow, Physical and Life Sciences Directorate, LLNL
  • 2010 Global Security Directorate Silver Award, LLNL, for recognition of PI leadership
  • Scholar, National Science Foundation Debating Science Program: Climate Change, University of Montana, Missoula, August 2007
  • Scholar, Advanced Study Program Summer Colloquium at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, “Regional Biogeochemistry: Needs and Methodologies”, Boulder, CO, June 2007
  • Scholarship, awarded by the Regional Forest Responses to Environmental Change Traveling Workshop 2006, sponsored by International Union of Forest Research Organizations, Boston University, USDA Forest Service, U.S.-China Carbon Consortium, September 2006
  • Jastro-Shields Research Scholarship, UC Davis, 2005–2008
  • Fellowship, Atmospheric Science Graduate Group, UC Davis, 2002–2003

Selected (Recent) Publications

Higgins, C.W., Drake, S, Kelley, J.R., Oldroyd, H.J., Jensen, D., Wharton, S., Rapid resolution of the atmospheric response to the 2017 total solar eclipse. Frontiers in Earth Science, in review

Jiang, Y., Still, C.J., Page, G.F.M., Rastogi, B., Wharton, S., Meinzer, F.C., Voelker, S., Kim, J.B., Trend and control in water-use efficiency of an old-growth coniferous forest in the Pacific Northwest. Environmental Research Letters, in review

Wilczak, J., Stoelinga, M., Berg, L., Sharp, J., Draxk, C., McCaffrey, K., Banta, R., Bianco, L., Djalalova, I., Lundquist, J., Muradyan, P., Choukulkar, A., Leo, L., Bonin, T., Eckman, R., Long, C., Worsnop, R., Wharton, S., et al. The second wind forecast improvement project (WFIP2): observational field campaign. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, in review

Rastogi, R., Berkelhammer, M., Wharton, S., Whelan, M.E., Meinzer, F.C., Noone, D., Still, C.J. (2018) Ecosystem fluxes of carbonyl sulfide in an old-growth forest: temporal dynamics and responses to diffuse radiation and heat waves. Biogeosciences 15, 7127-7139

Rastogi, B., Berkelhammer, M., Wharton, S., Whelan, M.E., Itter, M.S., Leen, J.B., Gupta, M.X., Noone, D., Still, C.J. (2018) Large uptake of atmospheric OCS observed at a moist old growth forest: Controls and implications for carbon cycle applications. Journal of Geophysical Research – Biogeosciences, 123,

DuBois, S., Desai, A.R., Singh, A., Serbin, S.P., Goulden, M.L., Baldocchi, D.D., Ma, S., Oechel, W.C., Wharton, S., Kruger, E.L., Townsend, P.A. (2018) Using imaging spectroscopy data to detect spatial and temporal variation in terrestrial ecosystem productivity across a water-stressed landscape. Ecological Applications 28(5): 1313-1324

Wharton, S., Ma, S., Baldocchi, D.D., Falk, M., Newman, J.F., Osuna, J.L., Bible, K. (2017) Influence of regional nighttime atmospheric regimes on canopy turbulence and gradients at a closed and open forest in mountain-valley terrain. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology237: 18-29

Yang, B., Qian, Y., Berg, L.K., Ma, P.-L., Wharton, S., Bulaevskaya, V., Yan, H., Hou, Z., Shaw, W.J. (2017) Sensitivity of turbine-height wind speeds to parameters in Planetary Boundary-Layer and Surface-Layer schemes in the Weather Research and Forecasting model. Boundary-Layer Meteorology 162: 117-142

Bonin, T.A., Newman, J.F., Klein, P.M., Chilson, P.B., Muschinski, A., Wharton, S. (2016) Improvement of vertical velocity statistics measured by a Doppler lidar through comparison with sonic anemometer observations. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques 9: 5833-5852

Newman, J.F., Bonin, T.A., Klein, P.M., Wharton, S., Newsom, R.K. (2016) Testing and validation of multi-lidar scanning strategies for wind energy applications. Wind Energy 19:2239-2254

Wagle, P., Xiao, X., Kolb, T.E., Law, B.E., Wharton, S., Monson, R.K., Chen, J., Blanken, P.D., Novick, K.A., Dore, S., Noormets, A., Gowda, P.H. (2016) Differential responses of carbon and water vapor fluxes to climate among evergreen needleleaf forests across the United States. Ecological Processes 5(8): doi:10.1186/s13717-016-0053-5

Wharton, S., Falk, M. (2016) Climate indices strongly influence old-growth forest carbon exchange. Environmental Research Letters 11(4) doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/04401

Newman, J.F., Klein, P.M., Wharton, S., Sathe, A., Bonin, T.A., Chilson, P.B., Muschinski, A. (2016) Evaluation of three lidar scanning strategies for turbulence measurements. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques 9: 1993-2013

Klein, P, Bonin, T.A., Newman, J.F., Turner, D.D., Chilson, P.B., Wainwright, C.E., Blumberg, W.G., Mishra, S., Carney, M., Jacobsen, E.P., Wharton, S., Newsom, R.K. (2015) LABLE: A multi-institutional, student-led, atmospheric boundary-layer experiment. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 96(10):1743-1764

Wharton, S., Newman, J.F., Qualley, G., Miller, W.O. (2015) Measuring turbine inflow with vertically-profiling lidar in complex terrain. Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics 142:217-231

Taylor, A.J., Lai, C.-T., Hopkins, F., Wharton, S., Bible, K., Xu, X.-M., Phillips, C., Bush, S., Ehleringer, J.R. (2015) Radiocarbon-based partitioning of soil respiration in an old-growth coniferous forest. Ecosystems 18: 459-470

Toomey, M., Friedl, M., Frolking, S., Hufkens, K., Klosterman, S., Sonnentag, O., Wharton, al. (2015) Greenness indices from digital cameras predict the timing and seasonal dynamics of canopy-scale photosynthesis. Ecological Applications 25(1): 99-115

Bulaevskaya, V., Wharton, S., Clifton, A., Qualley, G., Miller, W.O. (2015) Power curve modeling in complex terrain using statistical models. Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy 7: 013103: doi:10.1063/1.4904430

Wharton, S., Simpson, M., Osuna, J.L., Newman, J.F., Biraud, S.C. (2015) Role of surface energy exchange for simulating wind turbine inflow: a case study in the Southern Great Plains, USA. Atmosphere 6: 21-49

Marjanovic, N., Wharton, S., Chow, F.K. (2014) Investigation of model parameters for high-resolution wind energy forecasting: case studies over simple and complex terrain. Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics 134: 10-24

Wharton, S., Lundquist, J.K. (2012) Assessing atmospheric stability and its impact on rotor-disk wind characteristics at an onshore wind farm. Wind Energy 15: 525-546

Wharton, S., Falk, M., Bible, K., Schroeder, M., Paw U, K.T. (2012) Old-growth CO2 flux measurements reveal high sensitivity to climate anomalies across seasonal, annual and decadal time scales. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 161: 1-14

Peltoniemi, M., Pulkkinen, M., Kolari, P., Duursma, R., Montagnani, L., Wharton, al. (2012) Does canopy mean nitrogen concentration explain variation in canopy light use efficiency across 14 contrasting forest sites? Tree Physiology 32: 200-218

Wharton, S., Lundquist, J.K. (2012) Atmospheric stability affects wind turbine power collection. Environmental Research Letters 7(1): doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/7/1/014005

Xiao, J.-F., Zhuang, Q., Law, B.E., Baldocchi, D.D., Chen, J., Richardson, A.D., Melillo, J.M., Davis, K.J., Hollinger, D.Y., Wharton, S. et al.(2011) Assessing net ecosystem carbon exchange of U.S. terrestrial ecosystems by integrating eddy covariance flux measurements and satellite observations. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 151: 60-69

Yi, C., Ricciuto, D., Runze, L., Wolbeck, J., Xu, X., Nilsson, M., Wharton, S. et al. (2010) Climate controls of terrestrial carbon exchange across biomes and continents. Environmental Research Letters 5(3), doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/5/3/034007

Gea-Izquierdo G., Bergeron, Y., Margolis, H., Makela, A., Black, T.A., Dunn, A., Hadley, J., Paw U, K.T., Falk, M., Wharton, S. et al. (2010) Modeling acclimation of photosynthesis to temperature in evergreen conifer forests. New Phytologist 188: 175-186

Xiao, J.-F., Zhuang Q., Law, B.E., Chen, J., Baldocchi, D.D., Cook, D.R., Oren, R., Richardson, A.D., Wharton, S. et al. (2010) A continuous measure of gross primary production for the Conterminous U.S. derived from MODIS and AmeriFlux data. Remote Sensing of Environment 114: 576-591

Wharton, S., Chasmer, L., Falk, M., Paw U, K.T. (2009) Strong links between teleconnections and canopy CO2 exchange found at a Pacific Northwest old-growth forest from flux tower and MODIS EVI data. Global Change Biology 15: 2187-2205

Wharton, S., Schroeder, M., Bible, K., Falk, M., Paw U, K.T. (2009) Stand-level gas-exchange responses to seasonal drought in very young versus old Douglas-fir forests of the Pacific Northwest, USA. Tree Physiology 29: 959-974

Wharton, S., Schroeder, M., Paw U, K.T., Falk, M., Bible, K. (2009) Turbulence considerations for comparing ecosystem exchange over old-growth and clear-cut stands for limited fetch and complex canopy flow conditions. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 149: 1477-1490

van Gorsel, E., Delpierre, N., Leuning, R., Black, A., Munger, J.W., Wofsy, S., Aubinet, M., Feigenwinter, C., Wharton, S. et al. (2009) Estimating nocturnal ecosystem respiration from the vertical flux and change in storage of CO2. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 149: 1919-1930

Turner, D.P., Ritts, W.D., Wharton, S., Thomas, C., Monson, R., Black, T.A., Falk, M. (2009) Assessing FPAR source and parameter optimization scheme in application of a diagnostic carbon flux model.  Remote Sensing of Environment 113: 1529-1539

Xiao, J.-F., Zhuang, Q., Baldocchi, D., Law, B., Richardson, A., Chen, J., Oren, R., Starr, G., Noormets, A., Ma, S., Verma, S., Wharton, al. (2008) Estimation of net ecosystem carbon exchange for the conterminous United States by combining MODIS and AmeriFlux data.  Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 148: 1827-1847

Falk, M., Wharton, S., Schroeder, M., Ustin, S.L., Paw U, K.T. (2008) Flux partitioning in an old-growth forest: seasonal and interannual dynamics.  Tree Physiology 28: 509-520

Cheng, Y.-B., Wharton, S., Ustin, S.L., Zarco-Tejada, P.J., Falk, M., Paw U, K.T. (2007) Relationships between MODIS resolution imaging spectroradiometer water indices and tower flux data in an old-growth conifer forest.  Journal of Applied Remote Sensing 1:1-26

Falk, M., Paw U, K.T., Wharton, S., Schroeder, M. (2005) Is soil respiration a major contributor to the carbon budget within a Pacific Northwest old-growth forest?  Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 135: 269-283

Paw U, K.T., Wharton, S., Kochendorfer, J. (2004) Evapotranspiration: measuring and modeling. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 664: 537-554