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Announced today in London, Solomon is being honored “for her outstanding contributions in atmospheric science, in particular to the understanding of polar ozone depletion.” She will also give the Bakerian Lecture, a prize lecture on a topic related to the physical sciences.
Solomon has been a leader in the fields of atmospheric chemistry and climate change for more than three decades. In 1986, Solomon proposed that novel chemistry was taking place in Earth's atmosphere, and then used optical techniques to demonstrate that chlorine and bromine released by chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases were responsible for the ozone “hole” over Antarctica, which had been discovered just a year earlier. Those findings contributed to the establishment of the Montreal Protocol to reduce emissions of CFC gases beginning in 1987. Thirty years later, using observations and model calculations, it was again Solomon who led the first study to identify the earliest signs of the recovery of the Antarctic ozone layer, indicating the progress and effectiveness of those 1987 regulations.
Solomon joined MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) in 2011, after a long tenure at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; she now holds a joint appointment in MIT’s Department of Chemistry. Passionate about education, she played an active role in developing MIT’s minor in atmospheric chemistry and the minor in environment and sustainability. A gifted writer and speaker, she was also founding director of the Environmental Solutions Initiative.
Recent publications from the thriving research group Solomon has built at MIT have addressed observed changes in Southern Hemisphere wind patterns, thermal sea-level rise due to anthropogenic emissions of short-lived greenhouse gases, and connections between Arctic stratospheric ozone extremes and Northern Hemisphere climate.
The historic Bakerian Medal and Lecture, awarded annually by the Royal Society, was started in 1775 when Henry Baker, a prominent 18th century British naturalist, left £100 to establish a “spoken lecture given by a Fellow of the Royal Society on such part of natural history or experimental philosophy as the Society shall determine [to convey] scientific interests and importance, and encourage sharing of knowledge with others.”
Solomon will deliver her prize lecture in London in the spring of 2018. In the meantime, she presents the Seventh Annual John H. Carlson Lecture, “A Brief History of Environmental Successes,” at Boston's New England Aquarium on Oct. 26.