Earth Day 2019: Honoring Susan Solomon

Brooke German

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This year, Earth Day is on Monday, April 22. We acknowledge Dr. Susan Solomon, a leader in atmospheric science, because her efforts help us continue to celebrate Earth Day.

Solomon's fascination with science began in high school when she placed third in a national science fair for a project on the measurement of oxygen in a gas mixture.

After graduating high school, she received a bachelor's in chemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and later, a PhD in atmospheric chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.

In 1981, Solomon joined the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) where she researched the ozone hole over Antarctica. She based her research off of Mario Molina's theory that levels of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were the cause for the ozone layer destruction. If CFCs were the cause, she wanted to discover why the levels over Antarctica were so depleted.

Source: Awareness Days

To answer these questions, Solomon traveled to Antarctica in August 1986, which is late winter in Antarctica, to study the forming ozone hole. She battled 24-hour darkness and bitter temperatures, as well as having to make a second expedition back to Antarctica to complete the research. During her time there, she developed the theory of how and why the ozone hole occurs in Antarctica. She also collected measurements proving that human-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were the cause. Thanks to her efforts, we now have a better understanding of how to prevent the emission of CFCs to keep the ozone layers intact.

Source: Awareness Days

In 2011, Solomon left her position at NOAA to become a professor of atmospheric chemistry and climate science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Over the years, Solomon received accolades for her work:

  • Antarctic glacier named after her in 1994
  • 1999 National Medal of Science (highest scientific award granted by the government)
  • 2000 Carl-Gustaf Rossby Medal (American Meteorological Society)
  • 2004 Blue Planet Prize
  • 2004 Women in Technology International (WITI) Hall of Fame Inductee
  • 2007 William Bowie Medal (American Geophysical Union)

Thanks to Solomon's efforts, we now have a better understanding of how to care for our earth so that we can keep celebrating earth day for years to come.

Brooke Lazar is WITI's content manager and digital editor. She has a BA in professional and technical writing from Youngstown State University.