2012 Appleton medal and prize

Professor Colin O’Dowd, National University of Ireland, Galway.

For his outstanding contributions to research in atmospheric aerosol-cloud-climate interactions, and particularly in the formation and transformation of aerosols from natural systems.

Colin O’Dowd is a true leader in atmospheric research, driving large scale multi-disciplinary projects incorporating physics, chemistry and biology to address key aspects of processes that underpin Earth System research. His research is used extensively to improve climate and air pollution prediction models.

His research into atmospheric aerosols and climate impacts, the latter resulting from the cooling effect of aerosol haze and cloud layers, has led significant advances in our understanding of aerosol formation, transformation and climate effects. His work has centred on aerosol formation from geophysical and biogenic systems, particularly in marine and forest environments. O’Dowd’s work has unfolded new and exciting discoveries. Contrary to accepted opinion, he demonstrated that the marine aerosol system comprises a complex combination of sulphate, sea-salt, primary organic matter, iodine oxides, secondary organic matter and organic nitrogen species. The marine aerosol is the largest natural aerosol system with perhaps the greatest climatic impact, so these developments are highly significant.

His work on terrestrial biogenic aerosol systems, proving that new particle formation over forests results from organic vapours, is a major breakthrough in our understanding aerosol formation over forested regions.