2021 Donald R. Blake, UCI

don blake Announcing the 2021 Richard C. Tolman Award Recipient:
Professor Donald R. Blake
University of California, Irvine

Tolman Address:
“From Methane To Methane: Forty Years Of Research And Insight Into One Of The Most Important Greenhouse Gases”

Abstract: Methane is the second-most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. Methane’s levels in the atmosphere are higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years, and they have almost tripled since the industrial revolution. The measurements I took in the 1970s as a graduate student were among the first to observe methane’s year-on-year increases, showing that further and systematic global monitoring was required. My group has now collected more than 40 years of methane measurements, which represents the longest observational record of global atmospheric methane levels. Over this time my group has also investigated major sources of methane, including dairies, oil and gas, and landfills. Together with colleagues, we estimated methane emissions from the Aliso Canyon natural gas blowout in Los Angeles, and found that, at its peak, the blowout effectively doubled the methane release rate from the entire Los Angeles basin. My group has also assessed methane emissions from landfills before and after the implementation of mitigation strategies. We found that daily methane emissions decreased by a factor of two at a landfill in Louisiana after the mitigation strategies were implemented. This research demonstrated the effectiveness of methane reduction measures in landfills once emission hotspots were located. In this presentation, I will discuss my group’s pioneering methane research since the 1970s, including insights into straightforward strategies to improve landfill infrastructure in order to reduce methane emissions to the atmosphere.

Biography: Donald R. Blake was raised in California and served in the US Navy from 1971 to 1974. He received his BS in Chemistry from UCLA in 1978 and his Ph.D. in Chemistry from UCI in 1984. During his graduate studies, he was mentored by F. Sherwood Rowland, who received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for co-discovering that chlorofluorocarbons deplete stratospheric ozone. Professor Blake joined the UCI faculty in 1985 and has led or co-led the Rowland-Blake group since 1998. His research focuses on atmospheric trace gases that contribute to climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, and urban air pollution. His group has monitored global trace gas levels since the 1970s and has participated in regional NASA airborne missions since the 1990s, in which instrumented research aircraft survey atmospheric
pollution in different locations. His group also regularly studies air quality in cities around the world, with the aim of identifying specific emission sources that contribute to poor air quality. Professor Blake has received numerous research and teaching awards, including the American Chemical Society Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology (2013) and the California Air Resources Board Haagen-Smit Clean Air Award (2014). He has published more than 600 research papers and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2008) and the American Geophysical Union (2009). He is currently a Distinguished Professor at UCI.
Professor Blake presented his address and accepted his award at the Richard C. Tolman Award Dinner on June 7, 2022 at The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center of the National Academies of Science and Engineering at University of California, Irvine.