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Staff information


Ghassem R. Asrar

Atmospheric Sciences & Global Change


Dr. Ghassem R. Asrar is the Director of the Joint Global Change Research Institute of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory located at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland. Prior to this position, he served as the Director of World Climate Research Program (WCRP) in Geneva, Switzerland from 2008-2013, the Deputy Administrator for Natural Resources and Agricultural Systems with Agricultural Research Service (ARS), of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2006-2008, and he was with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from 1987-2005.

Dr. Asrar served as the chief scientist for the Earth Observing System in the Office of Earth Science at NASA Headquarters prior to being named as the Associate Administrator for Earth Science in 1998. While in his position of chief scientist, he led an international team developing the scientific priorities and measurements to be obtained from a series of advanced Earth-orbiting satellites that provided fundamental new insights into the connections between Earth's land, oceans, atmosphere, ice and life. He established and managed the NASA Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Research, Graduate Fellowship and New Investigators Programs to support training of the next generation of Earth scientists and engineers.

During his tenure as Associate Administrator for Earth Science, NASA program achieved successful launches of more than 20 Earth observing research and operational environmental satellites, and he guided the development of a comprehensive data and information system to manage record amount of unique information resulting from these satellites that served more than 2 million users each year.

Research Interests

  • Earth system science research and education
  • Multi-spectral remote sensing of Earth’s biosphere and atmosphere
  • Modeling mass, energy and radiation exchange between Earth’s surface and atmosphere
  • Renewable and bio-based energy, fuels and products

Education and Credentials

  • 1981 Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, PhD, Environmental Physics
  • 1981 Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, M.E., Civil Engineering
  • 1978 Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, M.S., Soil Biophysics
  • 1976 Pahlavi University, Shiraz, Iran, B.S., Soil and Water Physics

Affiliations and Professional Service

  • Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineering
  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Meteorological Society
  • Member of Editorial Board, Geomatics, Natural Hazards & Risks
  • Member of Editorial Board, Journal of Water
  • Chief Editor, Earth Perspective Open Access Journal

Awards and Recognitions

  • Scientific Achievement, American Institute of Aeronautic and Astronautics, 1989
  • NASA Group Achievement Awards, 1990, 1993
  • NASA Small Spacecraft Technology Initiative Award, 1994
  • NASA Exceptional Performance Award, 1997
  • NASA Exceptional Performance Award, 1997
  • Robert H. Goddard Memorial Lecture Series Medal, 1998
  • NASA Exceptional Service Medal, 1999
  • NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, 2000
  • IEEE Fellow, 2000
  • American Meteorological Society Fellow, 2001
  • U.S. Presidential Distinguished Senior Executive Service Award, 2002
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Space Systems Award 2006
  • Michigan State University, Outstanding and Distinguished Alumni Awards, 2007
  • American Geophysical Union, Fellow and Ambassador Award, 2014

PNNL Publications


  • Yang Q, X Zhang, X Xu, GR Asrar, RA Smith, JS Shih, and S Duan. 2016. "Spatial patterns and environmental controls of particulate organic carbon in surface waters in the conterminous United States." Science of the Total Environment 554-555:266-275.  doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.02.164
  • Rafique R, F Zhao, R de Jong, N Zeng, and GR Asrar. 2016. "Global and Regional Variability and Change in Terrestrial Ecosystems Net Primary Production and NDVI: A Model-Data Comparison." Remote Sensing 8(3):177.  doi:10.3390/rs8030177
  • Simmons A, JL Fellous, V Ramaswamy, K Trenberth, GR Asrar, MA Balmaseda, JP Burrows, P Cias, M Drinkwater, P Friedlingstein, N Gobron, E Guilyardi, D Halpern, M Heimann, J Johannessen, PF Levelt, LB Ernesto, JE Penner, R Scholes, and T Shepherd. 2016. "Observation and integrated Earth-system science: A roadmap for 2016–2025." Advances in Space Research 57(10):2037-2103.  doi:10.1016/j.asr.2016.03.008


  • Fawcett A, GC Iyer, LE Clarke, JA Edmonds, N Hultman, HC McJeon, J Rogelj, R Schuler, J Alsalam, GR Asrar, J Creason, M Jeong, J McFarland, A Mundra, and W Shi. 2015. "Can Paris pledges avert severe climate change?" Science 350(6265):1168-1169 .  doi:10.1126/science.aad5761
  • Iyer GC, JA Edmonds, AA Fawcett, N Hultman, J Alsalam, GR Asrar, KV Calvin, LE Clarke, J Creason, M Jeong, J McFarland, A Mundra, PL Patel, W Shi, and HC McJeon. 2015. "The contribution of Paris to limit global warming to 2 °C." Environmental Research Letters 10(12):Article No. 125002.  doi:10.1088/1748-9326/10/12/125002
  • Jimenez Alonso W, BJJ McCormick, MA Miller, C Schuck-Paim, and GR Asrar. 2015. "Beyond crystal balls: crosscutting solutions in global health to prepare for an unpredictable future." BMC Public Health 15:Article No. 955.  doi:10.1186/s12889-015-2285-1
  • Rafique R, J Xia, O Hararuk, GR Asrar, Y Wang, and Y Luo. 2015. "Divergent predictions of carbon storage between two global land models: attribution of the causes through traceability analysis." Earth System Dynamics 6:1579-16045.  doi:10.5194/esdd-6-1579-2015
  • Rafique R, S Kumar, Y Luo, G Kiely, and GR Asrar. 2015. "An algorithmic calibration approach to identify globally optimal parameters for constraining the DayCent model." Ecological Modelling 297:196-200.  doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2014.11.022
  • Zhou Y, SJ Smith, K Zhao, ML Imhoff, AM Thomson, B Bond-Lamberty, GR Asrar, X Zhang, C He, and C Elvidge. 2015. "A global map of urban extent from nightlights." Environmental Research Letters 10(5):Article No. 054011.  doi:10.1088/1748-9326/10/5/054011

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