Carnegie Mellon University

Peter Adams

Peter Adams

Thomas Lord Professor of Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Department Head, Engineering and Public Policy

Civil & Environmental Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890


Peter Adams is a Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and Department Head of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. His research largely focuses on the development of chemical transport models (CTMs) and their application to decision-making, especially related to PM2.5.  A current research area is the development and evaluation of reduced-complexity air quality models that are more amenable to policy analysis than CTMs.

Adams also has extensive expertise in the simulation of aerosol microphysical processes, ultrafine particles, and the formation of cloud condensation nuclei in global climate models. Areas of research have also included the effects of climate change on air quality, short-lived climate forcers, atmospheric ammonia, and particulate matter formation from livestock operations, and the simulation organic particulate matter.

Adams was selected for a Fulbright grant to collaborate with researchers at the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate in Bologna, has been a Visiting Senior Research Scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center and received the Sheldon K. Friedlander Award for outstanding doctoral thesis from the American Association for Aerosol Research. He has previously served on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee and the Allegheny County Health Department’s Air Toxics New Guidelines Proposal Committee as well as service to the American Association for Aerosol Research. His research is supported primarily by the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense.

Adams received his BS degree in Chemical Engineering, summa cum laude, from Cornell University. He was awarded a Hertz Foundation Applied Science Fellowship for graduate study and received MS and PhD degrees in Chemical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology. He also holds an associated faculty position in the Chemical Engineering department at Carnegie Mellon.

Courtesy Appointment: ChemE 


PhD 2001 - California Institute of Technology
MS 1998 - California Institute of Technology
BS 1996 - Cornell University


Research Group: CREST
Research Center: CAPSCEDM, CACES

Areas of Interest

  • Climatic effects of atmospheric particulate matter (aerosols)
  • Global and regional models of atmospheric chemistry
  • Air quality in developing countries

Aerosol Effects on Climate

Anthropogenic aerosols cool the earth's climate by reflecting sunlight back to space and by serving as nuclei for cloud droplet formation. Their net effect has been to partially offset global warming from greenhouse gases, but uncertainty in the magnitude of this effect has complicated the assessment and forecasting of climate change. Research in this area focuses on improving the representation of aerosols in global climate, chemistry, and transport models by incorporating size-resolved aerosol microphysics and thermodynamics and testing these improved aerosol models against observations from ground networks, intensive field campaigns, and satellites. Other work examines how aerosols influence cloud reflectivity in small-scale, detailed simulations of cloud formation.

Regional Air Quality Modeling

Regional air quality models are being developed that predict the concentrations of ozone and particulate matter resulting from a given set of emissions. Specific goals in this area of research are to improve the computational efficiency of air quality models such that multi-year time periods can be simulated, better constrain the emissions of ammonia through inverse modeling, and examine the costs and benefits of air pollution controls and future energy policies in developed and developing countries.


Heo, J., S. T. McCoy, and P. J. Adams (2015) "Implications of ammonia emissions from post-combustion carbon capture for airborne particulate matter" Environmental Science and Technology, 49(8), 5142-5150.

Westervelt, D. M., J. R. Pierce, and P. J. Adams (2014) "Analysis of feedbacks between nucleation rate, survival probability and cloud condensation nuclei formation" Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 14(11), 5577-5597.

Jathar, S. H., Farina, S. C., Robinson, A. L., and Adams, P. J. (2011) “The influence of semi-volatile and reactive primary emissions on the abundance and properties of global organic aerosol” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 11(15): 7727-7746.

Chen, W. T., Lee, Y. H., Adams, P. J., Nenes, A., and Seinfeld, J. H. (2010) “Will black carbon mitigation dampen aerosol indirect forcing?,” Geophys. Res. Lett., 37(L09801): doi:10.1029/2010GL042886.

Pierce, J. R., and Adams, P. J. (2009) “Can cosmic rays affect cloud condensation nuclei by altering new particle formation rates?,” Geophys. Res. Lett., 36.

Pierce, J. R., and Adams, P. J. (2009) “Uncertainty in global CCN concentrations from uncertain aerosol nucleation and primary emission rates,” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 9(4): 1339-1356.

Recent Awards

  • 2012: Fulbright Scholar; “Global Implications of Emerging Organic Aerosol Chemistry”, resident at the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate of the Italian National Research Council (ISAC-CNR) in Bologna, Italy
  • 2010: Visiting Senior Research Scientist; University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • 2004: Sheldon K. Frielander Award (Outstanding Dissertation), American Association for Aerosol Research

Peter Adams: Airborne Particulate Matter: Public Health Impacts & Climate Change

Professor Peter Adams, of the Departments of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Engineering & Public Policy, discusses global climate models and their role in improving public health and climate change in our latest video.