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Summer 2000

Susan Solomon's NCAR Interactions

Editor's note: As part of NCAR and UCAR's 40th anniversary celebration, the UCAR Quarterly is publishing articles by distinguished scientists on their association with our people and facilities. Susan Solomon is a senior scientist at the NOAA Aeronomy Laboratory. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the French and European Academies of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Meteorological Society and American Geophysical Union. She has received numerous awards and honors, including the U.S. National Medal of Science.

Susan Solomon. (Photo by Carlye Calvin, courtesy of NOAA.)

As a young student of chemistry in the late 1970s, I became intrigued with the notion that chemistry could be explored on a planet instead of in a test tube. UCAR and NCAR played a key role in realizing that dream. In 1977 I received a UCAR student fellowship, which led me to work at NCAR that summer (before I began graduate school in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley). I was firmly hooked on atmospheric science as a career after a few months studying under the inspired tutelage of Paul Crutzen (then director of NCAR's Atmospheric Chemistry Division), Jack Fishman (then a postdoc with Crutzen), and Ray Roble (an NCAR senior scientist). I returned to NCAR to do my dissertation under the NCAR graduate assistant program in 1979–1981. I am one of many former students whose opportunities to interact with UCAR and NCAR provided excitement, stimulation, and unique educational opportunities.

While at NCAR, I began working with Rolando Garcia of the Atmospheric Chemistry Division (ACD) to develop a coupled two-dimensional chemical/dynamical model of the stratosphere and mesosphere. It was really Rolando's innovative insights about dynamics that led our model to be a little ahead of its time. He implemented a residual Eulerian approach which quickly led us to a better physical understanding of how transport moves trace chemicals such as stratospheric methane and ozone around. When the ozone hole was discovered in 1985, we were fortunate in having such a good model to examine possible explanations for its mysterious occurrence. We fingered heterogenous chemistry (in particular, the reaction of hydrochloric acid with chlorine nitrate) as the likely cause. This turned out to be a good guess. We've subsequently combined our dynamical and chemical knowledge to look at the effects of volcanic eruptions on ozone depletion, at gravity waves and mesospheric species, and a number of other intriguing chemical/dynamical problems. Without the collaborative spirit and special expertise of ACD and NCAR, none of this could have happened.

In the mid-1980s, I was also privileged to begin to interact with Jeff Kiehl of NCAR's Climate and Global Dynamics Division, who has been the father of radiative transfer codes generously given away to many dozens of researchers worldwide. Besides working with Jeff in putting a better treatment of radiation into our two-dimensional stratospheric model, I've been one of many researchers now benefiting from his and others' work on the three- dimensional Community Climate System Model. As they did with the Community Climate Model, research and support personnel at NCAR are playing a critical role in making this state-of-the-art coupled climate model available to others. Only at NCAR could such diverse talents be brought together (including strong university involvement) to produce such a powerful tool, and to provide its considerable horsepower to a broad community.

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Edited by Carol Rasmussen, carolr@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Fri Sep 1 16:44:56 MDT 2000