Markku Kulmala directs the Division of Atmospheric Sciences at the Department of Physics, and has served as a professor at the University of Helsinki since 1996.
Kulmala also acts as Director for the Centre of Excellence, appointed by the Academy of Finland (Research Unit on Physics, Chemistry and Biology of Atmospheric Composition and Climate Change) as well as for the NorFa Graduate School (Biosphere-Carbon-Aerosol-Cloud-Climate Interactions, CBACCI). Today Nordic collaboration is also carried out in a frame of Nordic Centre of Excellence “Cryosphere-atmosphere interactions in a changing Arctic climate” (CRAICC), coordinated by M. Kulmala, which is the largest joint Nordic research and innovation initiative to date, aiming to strengthen research and innovation regarding climate change issues in the Nordic and high-latitude Regions.
Over 120 persons work at the Division of Atmospheric Sciences, where the central research areas include the effects of atmospheric aerosols on the climate and human health, the microphysics of clouds and the connections between the biosphere, aerosols, clouds and the climate. The collaboration with forest ecologists in a very early phase of Prof. Kulmala’s research has lead to unique interdisciplinary research approach. Intensive interdisciplinary work has allowed the group to discover climatically relevant feedbacks between photosynthesis, emissions of non-methane biogenic volatile organic compounds, and their ability to form aerosol particles.
The Division engages in empirical and theoretical research, which ranges from the nanometric to the global scales. The research is both international and multidisciplinary: the Division of Atmospheric Sciences actively co-operates with dozens of international research groups, and the research is conducted via methods used in Physics, Chemistry, Meteorology and Biology. Since 1995 the research unit has participated over 100 EU projects as a partner. The Integrated Project on Aerosol Cloud Climate and Air Quality Interactions, EUCAARI, 15 million euros project with 48 partners from 24 countries coordinated by University of Helsinki, started in 2007. In 2008, Prof. Kulmala received the ERC-Advanced Grant on “Atmospheric nucleation: from molecular to global scale” from The European Research Council. The focus of this work is to deepen the scientific understanding on global climate change, particularly on the dynamics and formation of aerosol particles and atmospheric clusters in the lower atmosphere, with the emphasis of biogenic aerosol formation mechanisms.
Continuous measurements have been performed for years at SMEAR field stations in Hyytiälä, Värriö and Helsinki, and have added to the international esteem of the research units directed by Kulmala. The versatile time series, performed in Hyytiälä and which measure the interactions between the forest and the atmosphere, are especially significant. The time series related to the generation of atmospheric small particles is the first and the most long-lasting of its kind. Today we have four SMEAR-stations in around Finland: SMEAR I in Värriö established in 1990-1991, followed by SMEAR II in Hyytiälä (1995), SMEAR III in Helsinki (2004) and SMEAR IV in Puijo (2008).
According to the ISI Web of Knowledge, M. Kulmala is in the first place in the Citation Rankings in Geosciences (since 1.5.2011). His H-factor is 61. Prof. Kulmala has received several international awards such as the Smoluchovski Award (1997), the International Aerosol Fellow Award (2004) and the Wilhelm Bjerkenes medals (2007), Fuchs Memorial Award (2010).
In the end of 2011 the Finnish government founded a national climate panel inspired by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The national panel, representing members from the natural sciences, social sciences, engineering and international politics, is focused with collating climate change research for politicians. Prof. Kulmala is the chair of the national climate panel.