By J. MADELEINE NASH (article published in Time, January 10, 2005)

“Sometimes when she talks about her work, Azadeh Tabazadeh mischievously mentions talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, who famously asserted that volcanoes are the cause of ozone depletion. “He was only half right,” she says with a laugh. For as Tabazadeh and her colleagues have shown, volcanic eruptions do speed up the rate of ozone depletion–but only because their emissions combine with industrial pollution to create a destructive cocktail. Volcanic chlorine, for example, is water soluble, so it is quickly removed by rain. The sulfurous compounds that volcanoes spew out are another matter. These rise high into the atmosphere to create chemically active clouds that in the presence of man-made chlorine dangerously accelerate the process of ozone destruction. Volcanoes, says Tabazadeh, are a problem for ozone all right, but only because of us. This is the kind of insight that other scientists have come to expect of Tabazadeh. As a UCLA graduate student, Tabazadeh made observations about the composition of high- altitude clouds that provided clues enabling scientists to understand why ozone destruction over Antarctica is so much more severe than over the balmier Arctic.

Tabazadeh, 39, grew up in Tehran and became interested in science at age 8, when an uncle gave her a chemistry set as a present. When she was 17, chafing under the restrictions placed on women by Ayatullah Khomeini’s regime, she fled Iran with her brother, followed by other family members. Currently on leave from NASA, she is a visiting professor at Stanford, where her husband Mark Jacobson is an associate professor of engineering. The two are collaborating on a project that’s probing the likely atmospheric impact of a broad-scale switch from fossil fuels to hydrogen. The results, she hopes, will provide society with the information it needs to make rational decisions about global warming.”





By Laurine Goldman (article published in Popular Science, November 2002)

“Nearly a decade ago, Azadeh Tabazadeh helped demolish the claim that human activity wasn’t destroying the ozone layer. Critics and commentators insisted that natural events, including volcanic eruptions, were the cause–not coolants from air conditioners and refrigerators. Tabazadeh showed that volcanic chlorine washes to Earth in rainfall before reaching the stratospheric ozone. Chlorofluorocarbons, on the other hand, don’t dissolve in water and float up undisturbed, reducing the ozone layer’s capacity to filter ultraviolet rays. Her work helped pave the way for a landmark 1996 ban on CFC manufacturing.

Tabazadeh, 37, has always challenged authority. Growing up in Iran, she feared sanctions against women would keep her from pursuing science. At 17, her parents agreed to let her escape. “I guess they knew I was too stubborn and could cause trouble,” she recalls. Guided by smugglers, she climbed the mountains into Pakistan and on to and uncertain future.

Later, as a chemistry student at UCLA, she chose atmospheric science. “We all live on Earth and breathe the air,” she says, “so what could be more important than that.” Tabazadeh–now a senior research scientist as NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California–demonstrated that polar stratospheric clouds, pearly wisps, floating more than 10 miles above the poles, serve as a staging area for the chemical reactions that lead to ozone loss. She then became one of the first scientists to make a connection between ozone depletion and global warming. Tabazadeh wondered why an ozone hole forms each year over the Antarctic but not the Arctic. Up north, it turns out, the atmosphere isn’t cold enough for polar stratospheric clouds to do their damage. But the margin of safety is disturbingly slim. “If you just cooled the temperatures in the Arctic by about three to four degrees centigrade, you’d be able to make it very much like the Antarctic.” Tabazadeh thinks global warming could tip the scales, because greenhouse gases, while warming the Earth’s surface, cool the upper atmosphere.

Tabazadeh knows her biggest challenge is human nature. “People are so used to driving their cars. They don’t want to hear it,” she observes. But long odds don’t scare her. “From what I had to go through when I was young, I’ve learned that sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in, and most of the time–if the truth is on your side– you will win the battle.”



“By Glennda Chui (feature article published in San Jose Mercury News, January 22, 2002)

In 1973, a little girl in Iran gets a chemistry set. Although she can’t read the directions, which are in German, she is enthralled. She puts on the safety goggles and the white coat and spends hours puzzling out the diagram, seeing what she can cook up.

Years later, Azadeh Tabazadeh, now grown and with two children on her own, sits are her dinner table at Los Altos Hills, pouring a glass of coke. Her 6-year-old daughter studies it and asks. Why are the bubbles on the side of the glass? Why aren’t there any in the middle?

Most parents would shrug. But Tabazadeh, a chemist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, thinks about those bubbles for a long time. The results goes far beyond soda: She comes up with a startling new theory about how cloud droplets freeze–one that could profoundly affect our understanding of how people may be changing the atmosphere …

Her work has won prestigious awards from the White House and from the American Geophysical Union, the nation’s leading organization of earth scientists.

“She’s absolutely wonderful,” said her boss, Estelle Condon, acting deputy director for astrobiology and space research at Ames.

“Those kinds of scientific minds come along once or twice in a career lifetime. She has an ability to analyze things and see solutions where no one else has.”

Others describe her as driven, strong-willed, brilliant, and stubborn and one of the nicest people they know.

“On a social level, she’s extremely pleasant and sweet and interested in little kids,” said Owen B. Toon, director of the program in atmospheric and oceanic science at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “But she is a killer in the science world.

Her characteristic approach to any problem is to never give up. “She will argue with you endlessly. It’s frustrating sometimes. But she’s often been right.”

Tabazadeh says she always loved chemistry. She was the kind of kid who read advanced chemistry books for fun. Two critical decisions shaped her career…

Richard Turco, an atmospheric chemist at UCLA who supervised Tabazadeh’s graduate studies, said her strong background in basic chemistry allowed her to attack “really sweet problems” regrading ozone depletion.

“That’s what a good scientist is,” he said. “Someone who is curious and intelligent and who has developed the basic tools of the trade, such as mathematics and, these days, computer skills…”

Back to the bubbles

And what about those coke bubbles?

They led Tabazadeh to the notion that water droplets in clouds may freeze from the outside in, rather than from the inside out. It sounds like a small point, but it contradicts a fundamental idea in cloud chemistry, one that has been the conventional wisdom for six decades. “If we’re right,” Tabazadeh said, “then the clouds actually freeze at a faster rate. This is a very big thing. I was very excited.”

Jack Kaye, director of the research division in the office of earth science at NASA headquarters, has known Tabazadeh since she was a graduate student and, he said, followed her career with great pleasure. Tabazadeh’s story, he said, “is sort of like America at its best. This is somebody who felt she didn’t have the opportunity in her homeland to do what she wanted to do,” came to this country and worked her way up. On the other hand, he said, in the world of science, “we don’t do nice things for people because they have a good story. Everything she has done, she’d done on her own merits.” ”


Tabazadeh is a known figure in the Iranian Community. Below is an article about her published in Iranica in 2003:

“Dr.Tabazadeh ’s works have been revolutionary in the fields of geophysics,physical chemistry, and atmospheric science. She has written numerous research papers as the principal investigator, all of which have been published in prestigious science journals. In the cover story of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (2002,No.99), Dr.Tabazadeh presented for the first time the results of her research on the correlation between volcanic activity and the ozone hole, namely that if a period of high volcanic activity on Earth coincides with a series of cold winters in the Arctic, then a springtime Arctic ozone hole may reappear for a number of consecutive years. Her most recent work on the connection between ozone depletion and global warming is challenging widely held views in stratospheric science.

Dr. Tabazadeh is recipient of many awards including the American Geophysics Union’s medal in 2001. She was the 1999 recipient of the “Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (this is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on outstanding scientists and engineers in their early career). In the citation of this award, Dr.Tabazadeh is recognized for her pioneering development of theoretical techniques to simulate the formation of chemically and climatically important aerosol particles in the Earth ’s atmosphere. Dr.Tabazadeh works with a broad array of scientists, universities and scientific organizations such as UCLA, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Max Plank Institute, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.”

For more media coverage of Azadeh’s scientific work in national newspapers see her Linkedin web site: