Professor Pierrehumbert elected Fellow of the Royal Society

29 April 2020

Professor Raymond Pierrehumbert, the Halley Professor of Physics at Oxford, has been elected as Fellow of the Royal Society in recognition of his outstanding contribution to scientific understanding.

Professor Pierrehumbert works on the physics of the climate of planets – including Earth – and his research explores the past four billion years of the Universe and extrapolates to the next several billion years, extending from the Solar System out to the newly discovered exoplanets. He came to Oxford University in 2015 and became a Professorial Fellow of Jesus College.

His early work focused on fundamental processes such as water vapour and cloud effects in the present climate and under the effects of anthropogenic global warming, as well as climates of the distant past of the Earth, including the Snowball Earth phenomenon which occurred in one set of episodes about 700 million years ago and another around two billion years ago. He has also worked on the climates of Titan and of ancient Mars in the Solar System; his current research is primarily focused on climates of the newly discovered exoplanets and he was awarded a prestigious European Research Council Advanced Grant for this in 2017.

Climate change research

He retains an interest in policy-relevant climate change research, including metrics for accurately comparing effects of short-lived greenhouse gases like methane with long-lived gases like CO2 and is part of a Wellcome Trust project applying these ideas to climate effects of livestock-based agriculture.

‘The Royal Society is one of the most prominent advocates for the importance of fundamental research worldwide,’ comments Professor Pierrehumbert. ‘Fundamental research is research driven by the curiosity of scientists about big questions rather than research aimed at short-term economic payback, and serves a deep human need to understand our place in the Universe. It is worthwhile on those grounds alone, but it should also be recognised that the basis of our modern prosperity is the curiosity-driven research of a century ago, and the basis of our future prosperity is the fundamental research being done today. I am proud to be part of the Royal Society’s missions.’

Professor Pierrehumbert is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Geophysical Union. He was a lead author on the IPCC Third Assessment Report and co-author of the National Research Council report on abrupt climate change. He was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996, which was used to launch collaborative work on the climate of early Mars. He also holds a doctorate honoris causa from Stockholm University. His research has been published widely and he is the author of two books, including Principles of Planetary Climate (2010). Professor Pierrehumbert has worked and studied at renowned institutions around the world including Harvard University, the University of Cambridge, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Princeton University, Stockholm University and the University of Chicago.

‘We are delighted that Professor Pierrehumbert has received the honour of being elected as Fellow to the Royal Society,’ affirms Professor Ian Shipsey, Head of Department at Oxford’s Department of Physics. ‘His work is exemplary and his group offers not only important insights into fundamental science but is also able to advise practical policymaking. He is a fantastic asset to our department and we are all very proud of this achievement.’ Head of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics Professor Philip Stier adds: ‘Professor Pierrehumbert is remarkable in possessing world-leading expertise in not just one but several and very diverse research areas, from fundamental fluid dynamics and planetary physics to the climate impacts of agriculture. It is a privilege to work among such outstanding colleagues.’