On Aug. 26, the National Academy of Sciences released a report on the future of atmospheric chemistry research in the United States. Illinois civil and environmental engineering professor Tami Bond was among the scientists who contributed to the report. Bond talked about the importance of atmospheric chemistry research and the findings of the report with News Bureau physical sciences editor Liz Ahlberg Touchstone.
What is atmospheric chemistry, and what can it tell us about our environment, resources and weather?
Atmospheric chemistry researchers study the composition of the atmosphere and how it got that way. The atmosphere is connected to everything else in the Earth and societal systems: land, ocean, agriculture, energy and its emissions. Because everyone lives in the atmosphere, all of our choices affect what humans are exposed to.
What do you foresee for the coming decade of research?
I hope that we see a lot more integration between disciplines, including atmospheric chemistry, in order to address issues of societal relevance. Of course, I also expect to see an improvement in the fundamental tools of the discipline: advanced measurements of chemical composition and models that connect scales from microscopic to global.
What kinds of resources and development are needed to accomplish such work?
Most importantly, we need to train students who have both depth in a specialty and an ability to work with other disciplines. We need to continue powering our tools with observations of the Earth system and computing power for simulation. We also need infrastructure that allows collaboration, such as support for data synthesis and integration.
How can atmospheric scientists and policymakers work together, across the U.S. and around the globe?
Many atmospheric scientists, and Earth scientists in general, are working toward a predictive capability of the Earth system. Atmospheric scientists can serve society and policy by understanding what we need to forecast – that is, what’s most important to people – what we know and what we don’t know. Ultimately, everyone wants the best possible future, and evidence-based policy decisions are key to achieving that goal.