Susan Solomon

Susan Solomon
Solomon in 2004
Born 1956 (age 6162)
Chicago, Illinois
Citizenship United States
Alma mater B.S. (1977), Illinois Institute of Technology, M.S. (1979), Ph.D. (1981) University of California, Berkeley
Known for Ozone Studies
Awards National Medal of Science (1999)
V. M. Goldschmidt Award (2006)
William Bowie Medal (2007)
Volvo Environment Prize (2009)
2012 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award
Scientific career
Fields Atmospheric Chemistry
Institutions MIT
External audio
“Whatever Happened to the Ozone Hole?”, Distillations Podcast Episode 230, April 17, 2018, Science History Institute

Susan Solomon (born 1956 in Chicago)[1] is an atmospheric chemist, working for most of her career at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.[2] In 2011, Solomon joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she serves as the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry & Climate Science.[3] Solomon, with her colleagues, was the first to propose the chlorofluorocarbon free radical reaction mechanism that is the cause of the Antarctic ozone hole.[2]

Solomon is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences, and the French Academy of Sciences.[4] In 2008, Solomon was selected by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.[5] She also serves on the Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.[6]


Early life

Solomon's interest in science began as a child watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.[1] In high school she placed third in a national science fair, with a project that measured the percent of oxygen in a gas mixture.[1]

Solomon received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1977. She received her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1981, where she specialized in atmospheric chemistry.[2]

Personal life

Solomon married Barry Sidwell in 1988.[7]


Solomon was the head of the Chemistry and Climate Processes Group of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Chemical Sciences Division until 2011. In 2011, she joined the faculty of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[8]


  • The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition, Yale University Press, 2002 ISBN 0-300-09921-5 - Depicts the tale of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's failed 1912 Antarctic expedition, specifically applying the comparison of modern meteorological data with that recorded by Scott's expedition in an attempt to shed new light on the reasons for the demise of Scott's polar party.[9][10]
  • Aeronomy of the Middle Atmosphere: Chemistry and Physics of the Stratosphere and Mesosphere, 3rd Edition, Springer, 2005 ISBN 1-4020-3284-6 - Describes the atmospheric chemistry and physics of the middle atmosphere from 10 km to 100 km altitude.[11]

The ozone hole

Solomon, working with colleagues at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, postulated the mechanism that the Antarctic ozone hole was created by a heterogeneous reaction of ozone and chlorofluorocarbons free radicals on the surface of ice particles in the high altitude clouds that form over Antarctica. In 1986 and 1987 Solomon led the National Ozone Expedition to McMurdo Sound, where the team gathered the evidence to confirm the accelerated reactions.[2] Solomon was the solo leader of the expedition, and the only woman on the team.[12] Her team measured levels of chlorine oxide 100 times higher than expected in the atmosphere, which had been released by the decomposition of chlorofluorocarbons by ultraviolet radiation.[13]

Solomon later showed that volcanoes could accelerate the reactions caused by chlorofluorocarbons, and so increase the damage to the ozone layer. Her work formed the basis of the U.N. Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to protect the ozone layer by regulating damaging chemicals.[1][14] Solomon has also presented some research which suggests that implementation of the Montreal Protocols is having a positive effect.[15][16]

Using research work conducted by English explorer and navy officer Robert Falcon Scott, Solomon also wrote and spoke about Scott's 1911 expedition in The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition to counter a longstanding argument that blamed Scott for his and his crew's demise during that expedition. Scott attributed his death to unforeseen weather conditions - an argument that was largely debunked by British journalist and author Roland Huntford. Huntford claimed that Scott had been a prideful and under-prepared leader. Solomon later came around in Scott's defense and said "modern data side squarely with Scott"[17] to explain the unusual weather conditions in 1911.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Solomon served the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.[2] She was a contributing author for the Third Assessment Report.[18] She was also co-chair of Working Group I for the Fourth Assessment Report.[19]



  1. 1 2 3 4 "Susan Solomon". Science History Institute.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "InterViews". National Academy of Sciences. 2004-07-26. Archived from the original on 2013-02-19. Retrieved 2013-02-17.
  3. "People". Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences website. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2013-02-17.
  4. "Susan Solomon: Pioneering Atmospheric Scientist". Top Tens: History Makers. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2007-01-05. Archived from the original on 2013-02-17. Retrieved 2007-02-20.
  5. "The 2008 TIME 100", Time.
  6. "Science and Security Board". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  7. Oakes, Elizabeth H. (2007). Encyclopedia of world scientists. New York: Facts on File. pp. 677–678. ISBN 9781438118826. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  8. Krajick, Kevin. "Two Climate Scientists Win 2012 Vetlesen Prize for Work on Ozone Hole, Ice Cores". Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
  9. MacFarlane, Robert (7 October 2001). "In from the cold..." The Observer. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  10. Wheeler, Sara (September 2, 2001). "Great Scott?". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  11. Brasseur, Guy; Solomon, Susan (2005). Aeronomy of the middle atmosphere : chemistry and physics of the stratosphere and mesosphere. Dordrecht: Springer. ISBN 1-4020-3284-6.
  12. Indivero, Victoria M. (Fall 2010). "Changing views on climate". Chemical Heritage Magazine. 28 (3): 13. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  13. Nickel, Mark (April 28, 2015). "Brown confers six honorary degrees". Brown University.
  14. Daley, Megan (June 30, 2016). "Decades after the Montreal Protocol, there are signs the hole in the ozone layer has begun to heal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  15. Hand, Eric (June 30, 2016). "Ozone layer on the mend, thanks to chemical ban". Science. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  16. Solomon, S.; Ivy, D. J.; Kinnison, D.; Mills, M. J.; Neely, R. R.; Schmidt, A. (30 June 2016). "Emergence of healing in the Antarctic ozone layer". Science. 353 (6296): 269–274. Bibcode:2016Sci...353..269S. doi:10.1126/science.aae0061. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  17. Monastersky, Richard (September 7, 2001). "History's Cold Shoulder". Chronicle of Higher Education: A20.
  18. Houghton, J.T.; et al. (2001). "Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis" (PDF). Third Assessment Report. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. p. 21. Retrieved 2013-02-17.
  19. Solomon, Susan; et al. (2007). "Climate Change 2007 The Physical Science Basis" (PDF). Fourth Assessment Report. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-08-01. Retrieved 2013-02-17.
  20. "Crafoord Prize 2018".
  21. "Susan Solomon awarded the Royal Society's Bakerian Medal".
  22. "Outstanding researchers honoured by the Royal Society". The Royal Society. 2017-07-18.
  23. Nickel, Mark (April 28, 2015). "Brown awards six honorary doctorates". Brown University.
  24. "Susan Solomon wins Vetlesen Prize - MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences".
  25. "Susan Solomon wins Vetlesen Prize | MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences". 2013-01-17. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  26. "2010 Career Achievement Medal Recipient". Service to America Medals website. Partnership for Public Service. 2010. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
  27. "Laureate 2009". Volvo Environment Prize website. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden. Retrieved 2013-03-07.
  28. "Women of the Hall: Susan Solomon". National Women's Hall of Fame website. National Women's Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
  29. "Remise de la Grande Médaille par Jules Hoffmann, Président de l'Académie,à Susan Solomon" (PDF). 2008-11-25. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
  30. "Honorees By Year of Induction". Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2012-07-23. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
  31. "Blue Planet Prize: The Laureates". Blue Plant Prize website. Asahi Glass Foundation. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
  32. 1 2 "AMS Awards and Nomination Information". American Meteorological Society. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
  33. "The Laureates - 1999". National Science & Technology Medals website. National Science and Technology Medals Foundation. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
  34. "The Henry G. Houghton Award". American Meteorological Society. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
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