John E. FrederickProfessor, Emeritus

Research Focus:
Atmospheric radiation and energetics, urban environment

Research Interests

My research addresses aspects of atmospheric radiation and energetics with emphasis on local or regional spatial scales and short time scales.  Much of my past work has centered on atmospheric optical properties and radiative transfer in the ultraviolet and visible portions of the solar spectrum.  Dissertation topics of Ph.D. students have included modeling the influence of particulate matter and clouds on the propagation of sunlight through the troposphere, analyses of decadal-scale changes in ultraviolet radiation levels received at high latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere, and most recently, the exchange of energy between urban structures and their surroundings.

Much of my current effort considers the energetics of the “built environment.”  Ongoing research involves acquiring data for solar and terrestrial radiation and meteorological variables in a variety of urban environments.  The combination of these datasets with energy balance models of urban surfaces allows inferring information about the flux of sensible heat, thermal conduction in the surface layer, and evaporative cooling.  Recent work has considered the role of longwave radiation in the transport of energy across glass, the solar illumination of vertical surfaces on high-rise buildings and the roles of cloudiness and evaporative cooling in maintaining the temperatures of rooftops.  The results have implications for forecasting the demand for energy to heat and cool urban living spaces.

Selected Publications

  • Frederick, J. E., Solar irradiance observed at Summit, Greenland:  Possible links to magnetic activity on short timescales, J. Atmos. Solar-Terrest. Physics, 147, 59-70, 2016, doi:10.1016/j.jastp.2016.07.
  • Frederick, J. E., Energy transfer through single and double-pane windows subject to wintertime environmental radiation, Journal of Building Physics, 38, 214-233, DOI: 10.1177/1744259113501628, 2014.
  • Frederick, J. E, and R. Khosla, The energy balance of an urban rooftop: A case study addressing cloudiness and evaporative cooling, Advances in Building Energy Research, 8, 97-115, DOI: 10.1080/17512549.2014.901187, 2014.


  • B. A. (magna cum laude) Hanover College, 1971, Major: Physics
  • Ph.D. University of Colorado-Boulder, 1975, Department of Astro-Geophysics
  • Postdoctoral Scholar, 1975-1976, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Space Physics Research Laboratory


  • Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago, 2015-present
  • Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Chicago, 1985-2015
  • Associate Dean, Physical Sciences Division and the College, University of Chicago, 2006-2012
  • Master, Physical Sciences Collegiate Division, University of Chicago, 2006-2012
  • Chairman, Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, 1994-1997
  • Space Scientist, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, 1977-1985
  • Asst. Res. Scientist, Space Physics Research Laboratory, University of Michigan, 1976-1977


  • Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching - The University of Chicago, 1989.
  • NASA Group Achievement Award for contributions to the Halogen Occultation Experiment.
  • Acknowledged by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for contributing to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to IPCC, 2007.
  • Arthur L. Kelly Award for Exceptional Faculty Service, Physical Sciences Division, The University of Chicago, 2012.