Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences Cooperative Institute for Research
in Environmental Sciences

Joost de Gouw

Research Interests

Emissions, chemistry and loss processes of organic carbon in both the gas and particle phases in the Earth's atmosphere. The atmospheric formation of secondary pollutants such as ozone and aerosol and their influence on air quality and climate. Development and use of mass spectrometric and other methods for measurements of volatile organic compounds.

deGouw_ 1 June flight__DLack.jpg

Clouds in the U.S. Southeast seen from the NOAA WP-3D research aircraft during the SENEX study. Photo credit: Dan Lack/CIRES

Current Research

Natural versus man-made sources of fine particles in the air

Organic molecules play an important role in the atmosphere. They provide the fuel for the formation of ozone in the lower atmosphere and contribute to fine particle formation. Ozone and fine particles are important air pollutants and play a role in the climate system: Ozone is a greenhouse gas, and fine particles cool the climate through the scattering of sunlight and by providing the nuclei for cloud droplets. Fine particles also can limit visibility and cause the air to appear polluted.

Organics have important natural and man-made emission sources, but the relative contributions of these sources to formation of ozone and, in particular, fine particles are poorly understood. In 2013, I led the NOAA Southeast Nexus of Air Quality and Climate Change (SENEX) study in the Southeast U.S. The Southeast is a region with high man-made emissions from power plants, industries, and urban areas, as well as some of the highest emissions from vegetation in the world. One of the major goals of SENEX was to investigate how these emissions combine to form ozone and fine particles.


Clouds in the U.S. Southeast seen from the NOAA WP-3D research aircraft during the SENEX study. Photo credit: Dan Lack/CIRES

To answer these questions, a team of 45 scientists from CIRES, NOAA, NASA, and three universities instrumented a NOAA WP-3D aircraft with a suite of chemical and physical instruments and conducted 18 research flights over a region spanning Florida to Texas in the south, and Missouri to Pennsylvania in the north. The improved understanding of ozone and fine particle sources gained from SENEX is important for air quality: Only the man-made fraction of pollutants can be reduced through effective air-quality management. The knowledge is also important for climate: The global climate can be changed only through the forcing by man-made pollutants.

Another important direction of our research focuses on the environmental effects of new energy sources. For example, the production of shale gas has grown rapidly during the past decade, and ethanol made from corn now constitutes approximately 10 percent of gasoline in the United States. Research is underway to determine how the production and use of these energy sources have affected the atmospheric environment. 


Click here for list of publications

Honors and Awards

  • Editor of JGR Atmospheres