Photo of Susan Solomon

Susan Solomon

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry

For key scientific insights in explaining the cause of the Antarctic Ozone hole and for advancing the understanding of the global ozone layer; for changing the direction of ozone research through her findings; and for exemplary service to worldwide public policy decisions and to the American public.

Susan Solomon first became enamored of science while watching exploration shows, like “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” In high school she became interested in the atmosphere when she earned third place in a national science contest by measuring the amount of oxygen in various gaseous mixtures.

As a NOAA senior scientist, Solomon changed the course of atmospheric research through her role in discovering the cause of depleted atmospheric ozone in the Antarctic. Her key measurements helped develop the scientific understanding needed to confirm the theory of ozone depletion. In 1986 and 1987, Solomon led expeditions to Antarctica and carried out the first observations of chlorine dioxide, which showed that its abundance there is about 100 times greater than predicted. This was the first direct evidence that pointed to chlorine chemistry as the cause of the Antarctic ozone hole.

Solomon developed a new method for evaluating the ozone depletion potentials used as a scale for regulating compounds that damage the ozone layer. She is the leading researcher involved in evaluating the impacts of proposed substitutes for ozone-depleting compounds, known as chlorofluorocarbons and halons. Her research helped institute a global ban on these chemicals that destroy atmospheric ozone.

By Jen Santisi