Outstanding Distinguished Scientist Lecture 2019

Dr. Zhang standing in a lab
Renyi Zhang, University Distinguished Professor 
and holder of the Harold J. Haynes Chair in Geosciences
Department of Atmospheric Sciences
College of Geosciences
Department of Chemistry
College of Science

Renyi Zhang will present the Outstanding Distinguished Scientist Lecture “Air pollution in the 21st Century: How it forms and why it matters.” 

Friday, April 26, 2019, 3:00 p.m.
Michel T. Halbouty Geosciences Building, Room 101 

The 2018 Sigma Xi Outstanding Distinguished Scientist recipient researches the understanding of ozone depletion in the earth’s stratosphere. His research at Texas A&M University has led to important discoveries in the formation, transformation, and properties of aerosols; urban, regional, and global air pollution; assessment of aerosol-cloud-climate interaction and the impacts of air pollution on human health, weather, and climate. While his work has significantly advanced the understanding of the fundamental atmospheric chemical/physical processes by elucidating the underlying mechanisms, his research also provides critical insights into the influences of air pollution on human health, weather, and climate.

Zhang is a senior editor of Oxford Research Encyclopedia-Environmental Science, Oxford University Press and an editor of Perspectives of Earth and Space Scientists. He has received several research awards at A&M, including the Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award—Research and the Bush Excellence Award for Faculty in International Research. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Geophysical Union, and American Meteorological Society. He was honored in 2016 by a named symposium at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in Philadelphia, Penn. Zhang received his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and conducted postdoctoral work at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Lecture abstract:
With increasing urbanization, industrialization, and economic growth among developing/developed countries worldwide, air pollution has emerged as one of the greatest public health risks in the 21st century. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 91 percent of the world population lives under poor air quality conditions below WHO’s guideline in 2018, and 4.2 million people die prematurely each year from exposure to air pollution. A US Environmental Protection Agency Assessment reveals that 111 million people nationwide still lived in places with pollutant levels higher than those designated by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards in 2017, despite progress made to improve air quality in this country. Air pollution consists of a complex combination of gases and fine aerosols. As a key greenhouse gas, atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) poses a major threat to the climate. Aerosols also directly absorb and scatter solar radiation, with important consequences in the earth’s energy budget. By acting as cloud condensation nuclei and ice nucleating particles, aerosols indirectly impact the lifetime and albedo of clouds as well as the precipitation efficiency and hydrological cycle. These aerosol-induced effects currently represent the greatest uncertainty in climate predictions. Noticeably, although CO2 and aerosols are co-emitted pollutants from fossil fuel combustion, they often exert distinct effects on weather and climate systems. This lecture will provide a historic perspective of air pollution and highlight recent progress in understanding its formation and impacts by emphasizing the similarity and difference among developing/developed countries. Current challenges and future direction of atmospheric chemistry research, as well as the scientific basis for development of effective mitigation policies for air quality improvement and climate protection, will also be addressed.