Brian Toon

Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences


  • Fax: 303-735-3737
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  • 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 350 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

Employment history

NASA — Senior Technical Staff
25 years


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. Numerical modeling of clouds and aerosols in the troposphere and lower stratosphere
2. Use of the NCAR climate models to simulate climates of Mars and exo-planets
3. Studies of the climate of the early Earth
4. Investigations of the impacts of nuclear war on climate and humans
5. Development of new cloud and aerosol models for the NSF Community Earth System Model

Upcoming field work

2022 ACCLIP Mission to investigate the Asian Monsoon with the NSF GV aircraft and the NASA W-B57


  • ATOC 5600 Physics and Chemistry of Clouds and Aerosols
  • ATOC 7500 Numerical modeling of clouds and aerosols
  • ATOC 4500 Physics and Chemistry of Clouds and Aerosols


2018-2021 refereed papers (>350 total)
334. “An overview of mesoscale aerosol processes, comparisons, and validation studies from DRAGON networks,” (Brent N. Holben, Jhoon Kim, Itaru Sano, Sonoyo Mukai, Thomas F. Eck, David M. Giles, Joel S. Schafer, Aliaksandr Sinyuk, Ilya Slutsker, Alexander Smirnov, Mikhail Sorokin, Bruce E. Anderson, Huizheng Che, Myungje Choi, James H. Crawford, Richard A. Ferrare, Michael J. Garay, Ukkyo Jeong, Mijin Kim, Woogyung Kim, Nichola Knox, Zhengqiang Li, Hwee S. Lim, Yang Liu, Hal Maring, Makiko Nakata, Kenneth E. Pickering, Stuart Piketh, Jens Redemann, Jeffrey S. Reid, Santo Salinas, Sora Seo, Fuyi Tan, Sachchida N. Tripathi, Owen B. Toon, and Qingyang Xiao), Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 655-671,, 2018.
335. “Effects of Scavenging, Entrainment, and Aqueous Chemistry on Peroxides and Formaldehyde in Deep Convective Outflow Over the Central and Southeast United States”, (Megan M Bela, Mary C Barth, Owen Brian [...]

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Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences-Professor
Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics-Research Scientist

Honors and awards

1983 H. Julian Allen Award, NASA Ames Research Center.
1983 NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement
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
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
2020 University of Colorado Graduate School, Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award, Honorable Mention
2022 Elected Fellow of American Association for the Advanceme


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