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Michael Pitts (NASA)

Title: Research Scientist
Technical Focus Area: Climate Science, Atmospheric Composition, Lidar Science
Study Topics: Polar stratospheric clouds, polar ozone, stratospheric composition
Missions/Projects: SAGE III/ISS, CALIPSO


Dr. Pitts’ research is focused on analysis and interpretation of aerosol and cloud remote sensing data sets that are critical for assessing key climate change issues. Over the past two decades, he has made significant contributions to polar stratospheric cloud (PSC) research, including studies of their formation, distribution, and evolution. Currently Dr. Pitts is leading the SPARC Polar Stratospheric Cloud initiative (PSCi), which has the overarching goal of producing a comprehensive review paper on the state of PSC science. Other areas of research include the impact of volcanic eruptions on stratospheric aerosol levels, the transport of aerosols and constituents in the vicinity of the polar vortex, and state-of-the-art retrieval approaches for remote sensing of temperature and gas species.


  • Pitts, M. C., Poole, L. R., Gonzalez, R.: Polar stratospheric cloud climatology based on CALIPSO spaceborne lidar measurements from 2006-2017, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 10881–10913, 2018.
  • Pitts, M. C., Poole, L. R., Lambert, A., and Thomason, L. W.: An assessment of CALIOP polar stratospheric cloud composition classification, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 2975-2988,, 2013.
  • Pitts, M. C., Poole, L. R., Dörnbrack, A., and Thomason, L. W.: The 2009–2010 Arctic polar stratospheric cloud season: a CALIPSO perspective, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 2161-2177,, 2011.
  • Pitts, M. C., L. R. Poole, and L. W. Thomason, CALIPSO polar stratospheric cloud observations: second-generation detection algorithm and composition discrimination, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 9, 7577-7589,, 2009.
  • Pitts, M. C., L. W. Thomason, L. R. Poole, and D. M. Winker, Characterization of polar stratospheric clouds with spaceborne lidar: CALIPSO and the 2006 Antarctic season, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 7, 5207-5228, 2007.


  • H.J.E Reid Award for most outstanding publication first-authored by a Langley Research Center employee (2020)
  • NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (2019)
  • NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal (2010)

Education/Professional Experience:

  • Ph.D., Atmospheric Science, College of William and Mary, 1999
  • M.S., Atmospheric Science, Georgia Institute of Technology, 1981
  • B.S., Meteorology, Florida State University, 1979

National/International Leadership:

  • Lead of the international Stratosphere-troposphere Processes And their Role in Climate (SPARC) Polar Stratospheric Cloud Initiative (PSCi) activity

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