Cynthia Nevison

Cynthia Nevison

Research Associate


  • PhD: Stanford University, 1994
  • MS: Stanford University, 1988
  • BS: University of California, Berkeley, 1987

Contact Information

(Office) 303 492-7924


Biogeochemistry, biosphere-atmosphere interactions.


Global biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen, carbon and oxygen and their impact on atmospheric trace gases, including nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and atmospheric potential oxygen.


Research Statement

My research interests include the global biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nitrogen and their impact on atmospheric trace gases, including atmospheric potential oxygen (APO) and the greenhouse gases nitrous oxide (N2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2). I have performed atmospheric inversions of observed N2O to infer source distributions over North America, finding that N2O emissions are concentrated in agricultural regions, particularly the Midwestern corn/soybean belt. My work shows that these emissions occur mainly in springtime coincident with the application of nitrogen fertilizers. My ongoing research seeks to elucidate the overlap of climatic variability with fertilizer and other agricultural management practices to better understand the human and climatic controls on N2O emissions.

North American nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions estimated based on atmospheric N2O data and the CarbonTracker-Lagrange regional inverse model. Stippling shows regions planted in corn/soybean (dots) and wheat (cross hatches), emphasizing the strong N2O source from the Midwestern corn/soybean belt.

I have also worked on broader issues of carbon-nitrogen cycling, including the control that nitrogen exerts as a limiting nutrient on terrestrial primary production. My research examines how the mineral nitrogen pool is represented in Earth System Models and how that representation affects predictions of nitrogen trace gas emissions, nitrogen leaching and subsequent eutrophication in coastal zones, and CO2 sequestration in the terrestrial biosphere.

I have longstanding interests in ocean biogeochemistry, including quantification of the oceanic N2O source and use of atmospheric trace gases like N2O and APO to quantify oceanic net community production. I have conducted inter-comparisons of the oceanic modules of Earth System Models to evaluate their performance on APO and to assess confidence in future projections of oceanic uptake of atmospheric CO2

I am also interested in the increasing prevalence among children of inflammatory neurological and immune system disorders, most of which have a strong environmental component. My publications in this field have focused on quantifying the time trend in U.S. autism prevalence, with my most recent work showing that autism prevalence has increased dramatically from near zero in the 1930s to over 1% among children born in 2012.

Finally, I am interested in the intersection of agriculture with human and environmental health, in which the same agricultural practices that lead to greenhouse gas emissions, coastal eutrophication and other environmental damage also contribute to obesity and chronic inflammatory disease in human consumers. In the context of current agricultural priorities that contradict the advice of nutrition and health experts, I am interested in exploring the large-scale issues of climate, biogeochemistry and resource consumption involved in shifting U.S. agriculture toward a greater focus on crops that nourish and support human health.



Levis, S., Badger, A., Drewniak, B., Cynthia Nevison, Ren, X. 2018: CLMcrop yields and water requirements: Avoided impacts by choosing RCP 4.5 over 8.5. Climatic Change, 146(3-4): 501-515. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-016-1654-9

Cynthia Nevison, Andrews, A., Thoning, K., Dlugokencky, E., Sweeney, C., Miller, S., Saikawa, E., Benmergui, J., Fischer, M., Mountain, M., Nehrkorn, T. 2018: Nitrous oxide emissions estimated with the CarbonTracker-Lagrange North American regional inversion framework. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 32(3): 463-485. DOI: 10.1002/2017GB005759

Cynthia Nevison, Blaxill, M. 2017: Diagnostic substitution for intellectual disability: A flawed explanation for the rise in autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(9): 2733-2742. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-017-3187-0

Parker, W., Hornik, C. D., Bilbo, S., Holzknecht, Z. E., Gentry, L., Rao, R., Lin, S. S., Herbert, M. R., Cynthia Nevison 2017: The role of oxidative stress, inflammation and acetaminophen exposure from birth to early childhood in the induction of autism. Journal of International Medical Research, 45(2) 407-438. DOI: 10.1177/0300060517693423

Cynthia Nevison, Hess, P., Riddick, S., Ward, D. 2016: Denitrification, leaching, and river nitrogen export in the Community Earth System Model. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, 8(1): 272-291. DOI: 10.1002/2015MS000573

Kahru, M., Lee, Z., Mitchell, B. G., Cynthia Nevison 2016: Effects of sea ice cover on satellite-detected primary production in the Arctic ocean. Biology Letters, 12(11). DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0223

Cynthia Nevison, Manizza, M., Keeling, R. F., Stephens, B. B., Bent, J. D., Dunne, J., Ilyina, T., Long, M., Resplandy, L., Tjiputra, J., Yukimoto, S. 2016: Evaluating CMIP5 ocean biogeochemistry and Southern Ocean carbon uptake using atmospheric potential oxygen: Present-day performance and future projection. Geophysical Research Letters, 43(5): 2077-2085. DOI: 10.1002/2015GL067584

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