Prinn, Ronald

Ronald Prinn
Co-Director, MIT Joint Program
Director, CGCS
TEPCO Professor of Atmospheric Science




54-1312a, E19-439GB

Focus Areas

Earth System Science


Biographical Statement:

Dr. Prinn's research interests incorporate the chemistry, dynamics, and physics of the atmospheres of the Earth and other planets, and the chemical evolution of atmospheres. He has been a faculty member at MIT since 1971, and headed the MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences from 1998 to 2003. He is currently involved in a wide range of projects in atmospheric chemistry and biogeochemistry, climate science, and integrated assessment of science and policy regarding climate change. He leads the Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE), in which the rates of change of the concentrations of the trace gases involved in the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion have been measured continuously over the globe for the past three decades. He is pioneering the use of inverse methods, which use such measurements and three-dimensional models to determine trace gas emissions and understand atmospheric chemical processes, especially those processes involving the oxidation capacity of the atmosphere. He is also working extensively with social scientists to link the science, economics and policy aspects of global change. He has co-led the development of a unique integrated global system model coupling economics, climate physics and chemistry, and land and ocean ecosystems, which is used to estimate uncertainty in climate predictions and analyze proposed climate policies. He has made significant contributions to the development of national and international scientific research programs in global change. He served as one of the Lead Authors in the Fourth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in 2007. He has served as Chairman for Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and has chaired the Steering Committees for the IGBP/IAMAP International Global Atmospheric Chemistry Project, the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Earth Sciences, and the U.S. Global Tropospheric Chemistry Program. He has been a member of the Steering Committees of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP), and the NASA Network for Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change, and a member of the IAMAP International Commission on Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Pollution, the NRC Space Science Board, the NRC Committee for the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program, the NASA Space Science and Applications Advisory Committee, and the NASA Earth System Sciences Committee. He has twice testified to the United States Congress on climate change science and its implications for policy. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical U nion (AGU), a recipient of AGU's Macelwane Medal, and a Fellow of the AAAS. He has published some 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers, co-authored Planets and their Atmospheres: Origin and Evolution (Academic Press), and edited or co-edited Global Atmospheric-Biospheric Chemistry (Plenum), Atmospheric Chemistry in a Changing World (Springer), and Inverse Methods in Global Biogeochemical Cycles (AGU).

Selected Publications:

Saikawa, E., C.A. Schlosser, and R.G. Prinn, 2013: Global modeling of soil nitrous oxide emissions from natural processes, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 27(3): 972–989

Potter, K.E., S. Ono and R.G. Prinn, 2013: Fully automated, high-precision instrumentation for the isotopic analysis of tropospheric N2O using continuous flow isotopic ratio mass spectrometry, Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 27(15): 1732–1738

R. Prinn, 2012: Development and application of earth system models. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online first, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1107470109

Prinn, R., S. Paltsev, A. Sokolov, M. Sarofim, J. Reilly and H. Jacoby, 2011: Scenarios with MIT Integrated Global System Model: Significant Global Warming Regardless of Different Approaches, Climatic Change, 104(3-4): 515–537

Wang, C., and R. Prinn, 2010: Potential Climatic Impacts and Reliability of Very Large-Scale Wind Farms, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 10(4): 2053–2061

Alvarado, M.J., and R.G. Prinn, 2009: Formation of Ozone and Growth of Aerosols in Young Smoke Plumes From Biomass Burning, Part 1: Lagrangian Parcel Studies, Journal of Geophysical Research, 114, D09306

Rigby, M., R. Prinn, P. Fraser, P. Simmonds, R. Langenfelds, J. Huang, D. Cunnold, P. Steele, P. Krummel, R. Weiss, S. O'Doherty, P. Salameh, H. Wang, C. Harth, J. Muhle, and L. Porter, 2008: Renewed growth of atmospheric methane. Geophysical Research Letters, 113, D17313

Prinn, R.G., J. Reilly, M. Sarofim, C. Wang, and B. Felzer, 2007: Effects of air pollution control on climate: results from an integrated global system model, in: Human-induced climate change: an interdisciplinary assessment, editors M. Schlesinger, H. Kheshgi, J. Smith, F. de la Chesnaye, J. Reilly, T. Wilson and C. Kolstad, Cambridge University Press, pgs. 93–102

Prinn, R.G., J. Huang, R.F. Weiss, D.M. Cunnold, P.J. Fraser, P.G. Simmonds, A. McCulloch, C. Harth, S. Reimann, P. Salameh, S. O'Doherty, R.H.J. Wang, L. Porter, B.R. Miller and P. Krummel, 2005: Evidence for variability of atmospheric hydroxyl radicals over the past quarter century. Geophysical Research Letters, 32, L07809

Prinn, R.G., 2004: Complexities in the Climate System and Uncertainties in Forecasts, in: The State of the Planet: Frontiers and challenges in Geophysics, S. Sparks and C. Hawksworth (editors), Geophysical Monographs, 150, AGU, pgs. 297–305

Prinn, R.G., 2003:The Cleansing Capacity of the Atmosphere. Annual Reviews, Environment and Resources, 28, 29–57

Reilly, J., R.G. Prinn, J. Harnisch, J. Fitzmaurice, H.D. Jacoby, D. Kicklighter, J. Melillo, P.H. Stone, A.P. Sokolov, and C. Wang, 1999: Multi-gas assessment of the Kyoto Protocol. Nature, 401, 549–555

Prinn, R.G., H.D. Jacoby, A.P. Sokolov, C. Wang, X. Xiao, Z.L. Yang, R.S. Eckaus, P.H. Stone, A.D. Ellerman, J.M. Melillo, J. Fitzmaurice, D.W. Kicklighter, G.L. Holian, and Y. Liu, 1999: Integrated Global System Model for climate policy assessment: Feedbacks and sensitivity studies, Climatic Change, 41: 469–546



Developing an Improved Framework for Analysis of Global Warming
An Integrated Framework for Climate Change Assessment
Integrated Assessment of Global Warming
Synthesis of Arctic System Carbon Cycle Research Through Model-Data Fusion
The Interface of Infrastructures, Markets, and Natural Cycles—Innovative modeling and control mechanisms for managing electricity, water and air quality in Texas
Analytic Support for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Renewable Electricity Futures Study


Education + Credentials
B.Sc., Chemistry, Pure and Applied Mathematics, University of Auckland, New Zealand, 1967
M.Sc., Chemistry, University of Auckland, New Zealand, 1968
Sc.D., Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1971
Courses taught:
Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry (10.571)
Global Climate Change: Economics, Science, and Policy (15.023J)
Experimental Atmospheric Chemistry (12.335)
Atmospheric Radiation (12.815)

Recent Publications

Joint Program Report
Sokolov, A., S. Paltsev, H. Chen, M. Haigh, R. Prinn and E. Monier (2017). Joint Program Report Series Report 309, 15 p., March [PDF]
Journal Article
Rigby, M., S. Montzkab, R. G. Prinn, et al. (2017). PNAS, online first (doi:10.1073/pnas.1616426114)
Journal Article
Chipperfield, M.P., Q., Liang, M. Rigby, R. Hossaini, S.A. Montzka, S. Dhomse, W. Feng, R.G. Prinn, R.F. Weiss, C.M. Harth, P.K. Salameh, J. Mühle, S. O'Doherty, D. Young, P.G. Simmonds, P.B. Krummel, P.J. Fraser, L.P. Steele, J.D. Happell, R.C. Rhew, J. Butler, S.A. Yvon-Lewis, B. Hall, D. Nance, F. Moore, B.R. Miller, J.W. Elkins, J.J. Harrison, C.D. Boone, E.L. Atlas and E. Mahieu (2016). Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics, 16(24): 15741-15754
Journal Article
Saunois, M., Bousquet, P., Poulter, B., Peregon, A., Ciais, P., Canadell, J. G., Dlugokencky, E. J., Etiope, G., Bastviken, D., Houweling, S., Janssens-Maenhout, G., Tubiello, F. N., Castaldi, S., Jackson, R. B., Alexe, M., Arora, V. K., Beerling, D. J., Bergamaschi, P., Blake, D. R., Brailsford, G., Brovkin, V., Bruhwiler, L., Crevoisier, C., Crill, P., Covey, K., Curry, C., Frankenberg, C., Gedney, N., Höglund-Isaksson, L., Ishizawa, M., Ito, A., Joos, F., Kim, H.-S., Kleinen, T., Krummel, P., Lamarque, J.-F., Langenfelds, R., Locatelli, R., Machida, T., Maksyutov, S., McDonald, K. C., Marshall, J., Melton, J. R., Morino, I., Naik, V., O'Doherty, S., Parmentier, F.-J. W., Patra, P. K., Peng, C., Peng, S., Peters, G. P., Pison, I., Prigent, C., Prinn, R., Ramonet, M., Riley, W. J., Saito, M., Santini, M., Schroeder, R., Simpson, I. J., Spahni, R., Steele, P., Takizawa, A., Thornton, B. F., Tian, H., Tohjima, Y., Viovy, N., Voulgarakis, A., van Weele, M., van der Werf, G. R., Weiss, R., Wiedinmyer, C., Wilton, D. J., Wiltshire, A., Worthy, D., Wunch, D., Xu, X., Yoshida, Y., Zhang, B., Zhang, Z., and Zhu, Q. (2016). Earth System Science Data, 8, 697–751
Journal Article
Meredith, L.K., R. Commane, T.F. Keenan, S.T. Klosterman, J.W. Munger, P.H. Templer, J. Tang, S.C. Wofsy and R.G. Prinn (2016). Global Change Biology, 23(2): 906-919

News + Media

News Release
University of Bristol | 
Apr 18, 2017
In The News
Inside Climate News | 
Mar 07, 2017
Joint Program News | 
Dec 09, 2016
In The News
MIT News | 
Jan 29, 2016
In The News
MIT News | 
Jan 25, 2016
News Release
Joint Program News | 
Jan 05, 2016
In The News
MIT News | 
Nov 10, 2015