Arlene Fiore

2011 James B. Macelwane Medal Winner

Arlene M. Fiore was awarded the 2011 James B. Macelwane Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 7 December 2011 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal is for “significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding young scientist.”


Arlene Fiore has contributed significantly to the science of atmospheric chemistry, our understanding of ozone pollution, the global roles of methane in both air quality and climate, the role of intercontinental transport in regional air quality, and global environmental policy analysis. The breadth and depth of her accomplishments are outstanding, with over 50 published papers in the peer-­reviewed literature, including 11 first-­authored publications.

Her Ph.D. research focused on understanding the sources of background ozone over North America, its contribution to ozone pollution episodes, and different strategies to reduce it. Fiore’s work led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to lower its estimate of “policy-­relevant background” surface ozone and made critical contributions to the development of EPA’s Ozone Criteria Document.

Through analysis of key ozone precursors, Fiore found, unexpectedly, that methane is the most important global precursor and that global anthropogenic methane emissions make a significant contribution to U.S. pollution. Equally important, she showed that reducing methane emissions would both improve U.S. air quality and yield double climate dividends via ozone and methane reductions. She next worked, in collaboration with J. Jason West and others, to quantify the economic and health benefits of methane control and characterize in detail the tropospheric ozone response to methane emission controls and the benefits to climate and air quality. Her research led to the identification of methane emission control as a key priority for ozone abatement in Europe.

Fiore’s work helped foster EPA’s current interest in intercontinental transport of pollution and contributed to the creation of a United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (­UNECE) Task Force on Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollution, where she has played a very active role as a coordinating lead author for the ozone modeling interim report, as a task leader for the Photooxidants Model Intercomparison, and as the lead author of a major paper on the multimodel intercomparison of intercontinental transport.

Fiore’s efforts to both communicate within her immediate scientific community and reach out across disciplines as well as to the general public have also been outstanding. Her invited talks have ranged from international and national meetings to university seminars to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works staff to the President’s Science Advisor. She has coconvened four interdisciplinary sessions at AGU, is on the AGU Eos Editorial Advisory Board, and is a cofounder of the Earth Science Women’s Network. She was recently selected as a lead author for the Fifth Assessment Report (2010–2013) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In summary, Arlene Fiore’s accomplishments are both broad reaching and consistently outstanding. She strives for thorough understanding, is willing to challenge long-­standing assumptions, and attacks critical research areas. She enjoys collaboration, selflessly sharing her ideas, data, and model results, and takes seriously her responsibility to explain her findings, not only to her peers in science but also to decision makers and the public. Her previous awards include the AGU James R. Holton Junior Scientist Award and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.


—Hiram Levy II, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, Princeton, N. J.


Thank you, Chip, for the nomination, the generous citation, and your mentorship and career advice, which have proven invaluable at several junctures in my life over the past 8 years. To Tracey Holloway, Daniel Jacob, Michael Prather, V. Ramaswamy, and A. Ravishankara, thank you for your role in nominating me and for sharing your enthusiasm, inspiration, and dedication to atmospheric chemistry. To Ram and Chip, former director Ants Leetmaa, and many others at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), thank you for creating an intellectually stimulating work environment where an early-­career scientist can thrive.

I’d especially like to thank Daniel for his willingness to take a chance on hiring an undergraduate researcher for a summer job despite my notably average performance in his course and for the countless hours he invested in teaching me how to conduct research, with an emphasis on the importance of communicating the results effectively. My freshman-­year high school Earth science teacher opened my eyes to the world of geoscience, although, admittedly, our trip to Plum Island on a frigid December day rather than a more sensible May beach trip may underlie my pursuit of modeling rather than fieldwork.

Much of my work is collaborative, and so this honor is shared with many people in the Harvard Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling Group, GFDL, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and beyond, with whom I’ve had the privilege of working. I’m inspired daily by close collaborators, past and present, at GFDL: Yuanyuan Fang, Isaac Held, Larry Horowitz, Jasmin John, Chip Levy, Meiyun Lin, Vaishali Naik, V. Ramaswamy, D. J. Rasmussen, Gabe Vecchi, Jason West, and several summer interns I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring; my new colleagues at Columbia and Lamont; and many others I am neglecting to name here. I acknowledge the Earth Science Women’s Network community for continually inspiring me with their experiences in pursuing science amid the many challenges life presents, including practical advice for navigating the challenges of motherhood and science. I thank my parents for instilling in me a deep love of learning; my husband, Brendan Field, for his unconditional support in every aspect of our lives; and our little girls, who share with us their never ending excitement of discovering something new.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to love my work. It is an exciting time for synthesizing models and observations as modeling capabilities improve in parallel with expanding observational techniques and networks. At times, this work has intersected with atmospheric science policy, enabling me to participate in assessing the scientific basis underlying U.S. ozone pollution policy and associated international efforts. I thank, in particular, Frank Dentener, Terry Keating, and Joseph Pinto for their support and encouragement of my participation. More generally, I thank all the senior scientists who make time to engage early-­career scientists in their activities. Such opportunities foster a strong sense of community, which I believe is essential as our scientific endeavors take us into increasingly cross-­disciplinary areas to tackle new pieces of the Earth system science puzzle in the years to come.


—Arlene M. Fiore, Lamont-­Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, N. Y.