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Academician Markku Kulmala – a trailblazer in research into ecosystem–atmosphere interactions

10 Mar 2017

Academy Professor Markku Kulmala (b. 1958) is the world’s leading expert in the physics and chemistry of atmospheric aerosols. He conducts research at the forefront of international efforts to significantly increase our understanding of the mechanisms of climate change, creating new opportunities to reduce the pace of climate change and mitigate its effects. He is widely regarded as one of the founders of a new field of research that explores the interactions between ecosystems and the atmosphere. His integrative approach in particular has significantly reshaped established research environments and structures.

Kulmala and his team investigate the impacts of human activity and natural processes on air quality and the climate. Air quality and climate interactions are varied and highly complex phenomena. Polluted air may change the local and even global climate, and the climate affects air quality in many ways. The research offers significant environmental, social and economic benefits.

“The complex interdependences and interactions between the climate and climate change can only be decoded through varied experimentation and theoretical work and with continuous measurements. Only in this way can we produce enough facts to support policy-makers in responding to key challenges, such as the air quality problems in China,” Kulmala says.

Kulmala has served as Professor of Physics at the University of Helsinki since 1996. He currently holds a research post as Academy Professor funded by the Academy of Finland. He also served as Academy Professor in 2004–2009 and 2011–2015. His publication record includes more than 900 original journal articles and he has supervised 67 doctoral graduates. With a total citation count of more than 35,000, Kulmala is the most cited geoscientist in the world. The Finnish Union of University Professors selected Kulmala as Professor of the Year in 2012.

“What fascinates me about research is the discovery, the crossing of borders. It’s intriguing to reflect on new themes, equations and causal links, and eventually to begin to understand them,” Kulmala says.

In 2002–2007 Kulmala was director of the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in the Physics, Chemistry and Biology of Atmospheric Composition and Climate Change and in 2008–2013 he headed the Centre of Excellence in the Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Meteorology of Atmospheric Composition and Climate Change. Currently, he is director of the Centre of Excellence in Atmospheric Science – From Molecular and Biological Processes to the Global Climate (2014–2019). Kulmala received a five-year Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) in 2008.

Kulmala has also played a key role in developing international research infrastructures and establishing a major network of observation stations. The comprehensive measurements conducted at Finland’s SMEAR stations (Stations for Measuring the Ecosystem–Atmosphere Relationships) have contributed to increasing the international significance of the research units under Kulmala’s leadership. For example, Finland today hosts the headquarters and coordination the European Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS) as well as coordinates the European Research Infrastructure for the Observation of Aerosol, Clouds and Trace Gases (ACTRIS).

Kulmala’s new initiatives Global SMEAR, the PEEX (Pan-Eurasian Experiment) programme with Russia and China, and participation in solving the air quality problems in China and in the Silk Road project also serve to increase the visibility and international impact of Finnish research.

“I believe that we have the potential to contribute significantly to improving the air quality in China. As the international measuring networks become more and more versatile, they can provide us with qualitative data on various feedback loops affecting the climate," Kulmala says.

More information

  • Academy Professor Markku Kulmala, University of Helsinki, tel. +358  40 596 2311, markku.kulmala(at)helsinki.fi
Last modified 13 Mar 2017
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