• Edward A. Frieman Endowed Presidential Chair in Climate Sustainability
  • Council Member, Pontifical Academy of Sciences
  • Chair and Editor: Bending the Curve: Climate Change Solutions
  • Co-Chair, California Collaborative for Climate Change Solutions

Dr. Ramanathan discovered the greenhouse effect of CFCs (cholorofluorocarbons; belongs to family of halocarbons) in 1975 and showed that a ton each of CFC-11 and CFC-12 has more global warming effect than 10000 tons of CO2.   This discovery established the now accepted fact that non-CO2 gases are a major contributor to planet warming and also enabled the Montreal protocol to become the first successful climate mitigation policy. For this work, he was awarded the Tyler Prize by Nobel Laureate Sherwood Rowland in 2009. In 1980, Madden and Ramanathan were the first to make a statistical prediction that global warming will be detected above the background noise by 2000, a prediction which was verified by the IPCC-UN experts in 2001. He led a NASA study with its climate satellite to show that clouds had a net cooling effect on the planet and quantified the radiation interactions with water vapor and its amplification of the CO2 warming. He led international field campaigns, developed unmanned aircraft platforms for tracking brown clouds  pollution worldwide.  His work has led to numerous policies including the formation of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition by the United Nations.

He founded, designed, and leads Project Surya along with daughters Nithya Ramanathan and Tara Ramanathan; an extended effort to characterize and mitigate climate and health impacts of cooking with solid biomass as a way to protect the bottom three billion from climate change. He is now leading a University of California climate solutions effort which has launched a course on climate solutions that is expected to reach a million students or more.

He was honored as the science advisor to Pope Francis’ holy see delegation to the historic 2015 Paris climate summit and in addition advises California Governor Jerry Brown. He was named the UN Climate Champion in 2013; has been elected to the US National Academy and the Royal Swedish Academy which awards the Nobel prizes. Foreign Policy named him a thought leader in 2014 and in 2018, he (with James Hansen) was named the Tang Laureate for sustainability science.  He is currently the Edward A. Frieman Endowed Presidential Chair in Climate Sustainability.

Research Interests

  • Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABC)
  • Air-sea interactions
  • Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation
  • Clouds, aerosols, greenhouse gases, and climate
  • Earth radiation budget measurements
  • Interdisciplinary climate solutions through education and cross-sector partnerships


  • B.S., Annamalai University, India
  • M.S., Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
  • PhD, State University of New York



  • Jen Burney
  • W D Collins
  • Steve Sherwood
  • Jeff Kiehl
  • Yanygang Xu