School of Chemistry

Search site

Prof John Plane awarded the Vilhelm Bjerknes medal for 2017

John Plane, Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry in the School of Chemistry, has been awarded the Vilhelm Bjerknes medal for 2017 by the European Geosciences Union (EGU), for distinguished research in atmospheric sciences.

The medal is named after Vilhelm Bjerknes, one of the leading atmospheric scientists of the first half of the 20th century.

Prof Plane’s research has comprised field observations of atmospheric constituents, laboratory and theoretical studies of fundamental physico-chemical quantities, and the development of atmospheric models. Unusually, he has worked on atmospheric problems from the upper ocean to the edge of space. One reason for working on such a broad vertical scale is to understand the couplings between the different atmospheric regions. Within this broad remit, he is a world-leading expert in two areas: the chemistry of the mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT); and the chemistry of the marine boundary layer (MBL).

A long-term interest has been the chemistry of metals, such as sodium and iron, which ablate from cosmic dust particles (meteoroids) entering the atmosphere. He is probably the world’s leading expert on mesospheric metal chemistry: the atmospheric models of the Na, Fe, Ca and Mg layers which he has developed from the study of over 130 individual reactions in his laboratory are now the standard tools for interpreting observations made currently by many groups around the world.

His other major research area is the chemistry of the MBL. He was one of the early pioneers of the Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (DOAS) technique. An early achievement was to make the first DOAS measurements of the nitrate radical over the remote oceans, thereby demonstrating that the nocturnal oxidizing capacity of the marine atmosphere had been greatly underestimated.

During the last 15 years Prof Plane has also been central in driving the development of an important new field: tropospheric iodine chemistry, which has led to a number of important discoveries about the composition of the atmosphere.

The EGU is Europe’s premier geosciences union, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the Earth, planetary, and space sciences for the benefit of humanity, worldwide. It was established in September 2002 as a merger of the European Geophysical Society (EGS) and the European Union of Geosciences (EUG), and has headquarters in Munich, Germany.

It is a non-profit international union of scientists with over 12,500 members from all over the world. Membership is open to individuals who are professionally engaged in or associated with geosciences and planetary and space sciences and related studies, including students and retired seniors.