Brian Toon

Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences


  • Phone: 303-492-1534
  • Fax: 303-735-3737
  • Alternate email:
  • Office: SPSC-W145


Owen Brian Toon is a Professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences for which he was the founding Chair, and a Research Associate in the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He received an A. B. in physics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1969 and a Ph.D. in physics at Cornell University in 1975. He was a Research Scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center from 1975 until 1997 when he moved to Colorado.
Brian’s research group studies radiative transfer, aerosol and cloud physics, atmospheric chemistry and parallels between the Earth and planets. Brian has helped conceive, develop and lead many NASA airborne field missions aimed at understanding stratospheric volcanic clouds, stratospheric ozone loss, the effects of aircraft on the atmosphere, and the role of convective and cirrus clouds in Earth’s climate system. He has been involved in numerous satellite missions for both Earth and the planets.
He has published more than 300 papers in refereed scientific journals, and is one of the most highly cited researchers in Geoscience.


University of California — Berkeley, CA
AB Physics

Cornell University — Ithaca NY
Ph.D. Physics


1. Radiative transfer in multiple scattering atmospheres
2. Three dimensional climate modeling including aerosols and clouds
3. Three dimensional modeling of planetary atmospheres
4. Effects of nuclear weapons on the atmosphere and climate
5. Operation of atmospheric research aircraft


1.Campaign Leader for the South East Asia Composition, Cloud, Climate and Coupling Regional Study (2011-2013).
2. Numerical modeling of particles in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere
3. Use of the NCAR climate models to simulate tropospheric aerosols
4. Studies of the climate of the early Earth

Upcoming field work


  • ATOC 5600 Physics and Chemistry of Clouds and Aerosols
  • ATOC 5810 Planetary Atmospheres


2013-2015 refereed papers (>300 total)
“Ice nucleation and dehydration in the Tropical Tropopause Layer, (E. J. Jensen et al.,) Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 110, 2041-2046, doi: 10/1073/pnas/1217104110, 2013.
“Recent anthropogenic increases in SO2 from Asia have minimal impact on stratospheric aerosol” (R. Neely et al.) Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 1-6, doi:10.10002/grl.50263, 2013.
“Microphysical Simulations of Large Volcanic Eruptions: Pinatubo and Toba” (J. M. English, O. B. Toon, M. J. Mills), J. Geophys. Res.,118, 10.1002/jgrd.50196, 2013.
“Simulations of the martian hydrologic cycle with a general circulation model: Implications for the ancient martian climate, (Richard A. Urata, Owen B. Toon) Icarus, 226, 229-250, 2013.
“A new general circulation model for Mars based on the NCAR Community Atmosphere Model” (Richard A. Urata, Owen B. Toon), Icarus, 226, 336-354, j.icarus.2013.05.017, 2013
“K-Pg extinction: Reevaluation of the heat-fire [...]

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Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences-Professor

Honors and awards

1983 H. Julian Allen Award, NASA Ames Research Center.
1983 NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement
1984 Co-recipient International Peace Garden Award, University of N. Dakota
1985 37th Annual Arthur Flemming Award, Washington D.C. JCs
1986 Co-recipient Leo Szilard Award for Physics in the Public Interest, American Physical Society
1987 Distinguished Lectureship, Phi Beta Kappa Society of University of Louisville
1988 H Julien Allen Award, NASA Ames Research Center
1988 Elected Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences.
1989 NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement
1991 Elected Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.
1992 Elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union
1995 Doctorate of Science Honoris Causa, University of Southern Utah
2002 Highly Cited Researchers Award, ISI Thomson Scientific
2007 Recognized by UNEP for the IPCC Nobel Peace Prize
2008 Jule Charney Lecturer, AGU
2009 Robert L. Stearns Award, University of Colorado Alumni Association
2011 W.M. Keck Institute Distinguished Visiting Scholar
2011 Roger Revelle Medal, AGU
2012 Peter Hobbs Memorial Lecturer, University of Wa
2013 University of Colorado, Distinguished Research Lecturer
2014 AMS Carl-Gustaf Rossby