The Atmospheric Sciences Section studies the physics, chemistry, and dynamics of the atmosphere, particularly the two layers closest to Earth’s surface, the stratosphere and troposphere. These layers are crucial to life because they regulate the planetary surface temperature, play an integral role in the world’s water cycle, and screen the planet from high-energy radiation.
One of the most critical issues that section members are studying today, along with colleagues in other sections, is global climate change. Much research is focused on monitoring fluctuations in the ozone layer, aerosols, levels of gases, and the effects of emissions from human activities such as aircraft, industry, and fossil fuel and biomass burning. The purpose of much of this research is to provide information in support of policies designed to respond to atmospheric changes that stress the Earth system. The Montreal Protocol is one example of how atmospheric scientists have successfully influenced government policies for the protection of the environment. This international agreement, signed in 1987, phased out the manufacture of chlorofluorocarbons throughout most of the world.