Richard Turco studies the chemistry and physics of planetary atmospheres, global climate change, and the environmental consequences of human activities.
His research focuses on threats to the Earth’s ozone layer from chemical derivatives of anthropogenic compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons. Turco and his collaborators have led research to define the role of atmospheric particles in global climate change, including the climatic effects of volcanic eruptions. In 1983, Turco, with several colleagues, developed the theory of “nuclear winter”—a climatic anomaly produced by nuclear explosions. His other studies have inquired into the relationship between mass extinctions and meteor impacts on the Earth, the causes of air pollution in cities, and the nature of global chemical cycles. He is the author of Earth Under Siege: From Air Pollution to Global Change (1995), and co-author of A Path Where No Man Thought: Nuclear Winter and the End of the Arms Race (1990).
Turco is a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, a member of the university’s Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, and founding director of the university’s Institute of the Environment.
Turco received a B.S. (1965) from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. (1971) from the University of Illinois.