Prof. Michael J. Prather

Contact Information

University of California, Irvine
3329 Croul Hall
Mail Code: 3100
Irvine, CA 92697

(949) 824-5838

Professor of Earth System Science, Fred Kavli Chair [Ph.D.(Astronomy) Yale University; M.A.(Physics) Merton College, Oxon]. Professor Prather brings expertise in global atmospheric modeling, particularly as applied to atmospheric composition and climate change.

Prof. Prather’s research interest is in simulation of the physical, chemical, and biological processes that determine atmospheric composition. He focuses also on development of (1) detailed numerical models of photochemistry and atmospheric radiation, and (2) global chemical transport models that describe ozone and other trace gases. Studies include the predicted effects of volcanic sulfate aerosols on stratospheric ozone loss, the role of clouds in scattering sunlight and altering photochemistry, non-linearities in chemical systems that lead to sudden changes such as the depletion of ozone caused by CFC increases, and feedbacks in the atmosphere that alter the expected magnitude and duration of anthropogenic perturbations.

Numerical models of atmospheric chemistry must simulate the transport of trace species by winds, convective mixing, boundary layer exchange with the surface, and exchange between the stratosphere and troposphere. Such models are used to predict future changes in the atmosphere and to analyze global data sets. Observed trace gas distributions are used as measures of the atmospheric circulation or alternatively as indicators of the location and strength of sources. Such a quantitative understanding of these causal relationships is an essential element of assessments of chemical and climatic change, and it is needed to convince governments and the public to make tough environmental choices.

Research Interests: 
  • Atmospheric Chemistry
  • Composition
  • Ozone Depletion
  • Climate
Selected Honors and Awards: 
Jefferson Science Fellow, U.S. State Department, 2005/2006 (active - 2010)
Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (Foreign Member, 1999)
Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (1997)
Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2004)
NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement (1992)