Jacobson Receives 2013 Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award

Cecilia M. Bitz, Paul A. Ginoux, Mark Z. Jacobson, Sergey Nizkorodov, and Ping Yang received 2013 Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “research contributions by exceptional mid-career scientists in the fields of atmospheric and climate sciences.”


jacobson_mark-zThe Atmospheric Sciences section of AGU awards one of the five Ascent Awards to Professor Mark Z. Jacobson of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University for his dominating role in the development of models to identify the role of black carbon in climate change.

Jacobson studies the impacts of black carbon, the major constituent in soot, on the climate of the planet. Through a series of high-impact modeling experiments, he has shown that black carbon is the second largest contributor to global warming. His model, now used by more than 1000 researchers, reproduced this dual effect of black carbon, i.e., it is a strong absorber of solar radiation, heating both the atmosphere and the ground. He also shows that there is an important secondary effect, i.e., heating the atmosphere reduces cloudiness and hence increases surface temperature even more.

Mark and his group have also studied the effects of absorbing organic aerosols (brown carbon) on ultraviolet and visible radiation; of aerosols on ozone, winds, and precipitation; of biomass burning on climate; of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on air quality and stratospheric ozone; of ethanol and diesel vehicles on air quality; of agriculture on air pollution; of aircraft on climate; of urban surfaces on climate; and of combining renewable energy on grid reliability.

His nominators noted, “Jacobson’s model is one of the few, if not the only one, which was able to simulate, and anticipate in some instances, the major features of black carbon warming identified in observations taken by aircraft and surface observatories.” Furthermore, “he is among the top few percent of aerosol climate modelers in the world and has conducted fundamental scientific studies with his models,” and “I cannot think of a more accomplished researcher in his field… He is a first-class scholar whose work is of the highest quality.”

We are extremely pleased to present a 2013 Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award to Professor Mark Z. Jacobson.

—PETER J. WEBSTER, Georgia Tech University, Atlanta


Thank you, Atmospheric Sciences section of AGU for bestowing this humbling honor on me. Thank you, Dr. Ramanathan, for your gracious nomination. Thank you to all my mentors, colleagues, students, special friends, parents, children, and even critics, over the years who supported my pushing the envelope to better understand the impacts of black carbon on climate and air pollution health through numerical modeling.

We have arrived at a crossroads now between understanding the intricacies of what causes global warming and solving the problem. The greatest gratification I have about working on black carbon is the knowledge that there are tractable solutions to reducing its emissions, including emission control technologies and changing our energy infrastructure to a noncombusting one. Because the atmospheric lifetime of black carbon is so short, controlling its emissions can also quickly reduce its impacts, particularly by delaying the loss of Arctic sea ice, thereby providing some additional time to transition to a clean-energy economy.

Going forward, I think it is incumbent on me as a scientist to focus on examining both problems and solutions. Solving the problems will require a large, integrated effort among scientists, business people, policy makers, and cultural figures. I hope to be a part of this effort and am optimistic that we can solve the problems together. This will make the world a better place for our children and grandchildren. Thank you again.

—MARK Z. JACOBSON, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.