Michael MacCracken

Hertz Fellow: Michael MacCracken

University of California, Davis/Livermore

Area of Study

Applied Science

Fellowship Years

1964 - 1968

Dr. Michael MacCracken has been chief scientist for Climate Change Programs with the Climate Institute in Washington, D.C., since retiring in 2002 from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Founded in 1986, the Climate Institute was the first non-profit organization to primarily address climate change issues. Presently, it is involved in projects with tribal colleges, small island states, scientists in Mexico, and the development of a new national standard for organizations to record their impacts on climate change and the environment. Mike received his BS in engineering from Princeton (’64), and with the support from the Hertz Foundation, earned his MS (’66) and PhD (’68) from the University of California, Davis, Department of Applied Science. At the suggestion of Edward Teller, his dissertation involved converting the world’s first global atmospheric model, which had been developed at LLNL by Cecil Leith, into the first global climate model that explicitly treated energy and transport dynamics, and then using the model to evaluate the plausibility of various hypotheses of the causes of glacial-interglacial cycling.

Upon receiving his PhD, Mike was hired into LLNL’s Physics Department, where his research over the next 25 years involved using climate and air quality models to investigate both natural and human-induced impacts. Among the projects were investigation of the potential impacts on climate of increased greenhouse gas concentrations, supersonic transport aircraft, volcanic aerosols, land-cover change, and nuclear war, and of factors causing high ozone days in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mike also was active in national and international activities, including several years leading an acid precipitation in the northeastern US and serving as US co-chair of the US-USSR project on climate and climate change.

After serving as division leader for Atmospheric and Geophysical Sciences (1987-93), Mike accepted an assignment from LLNL to the interagency Office of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), which was organized under the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. While there, he served as the Office’s first executive director (1993-97), as executive director of USGCRP’s coordination office for the U.S. National Assessment (1997-2001), and as scientific coordinator for the official U.S. Government reviews of the second and third assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 2007, he was able to attend the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to IPCC and former-VP Al Gore, for whom he has served as a scientific adviser at several of his leadership training sessions.

Since retiring from LLNL in 2002, Mike’s research has focused on the beneficial climatic effects of sharply limiting emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gases and absorbing aerosols, and on the potential for intentional interventions (i.e., climate engineering) to counterbalance the warming influences of greenhouse gases, particularly to alleviate specific regional impacts such as amplified Arctic warming. From 2005-07, he served as a co-lead author of the report Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable that was prepared for the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development under the auspices of Sigma Xi and the United Nations Foundation. In addition, he has submitted several legal declarations in support of efforts to limit climate change, and his affidavit on standing based on impacts on particular regions was cited favorably by Justice Stevens in his majority opinion in the April 2007 landmark decision by the Supreme Court in Massachusetts et al. versus EPA. Mike is a fellow of the AAAS and a member of the American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, The Oceanography Society, Sigma Xi, and Phi Beta Kappa.