• Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies
  • mbm@seas.harvard.edu
  • http://www.seas.harvard.edu/directory/mbm
  • Harvard Paulson School | Pierce Hall | 29 Oxford Street | Cambridge MA, 02138

Research interests: energy and environmental systems; atmospheric and climate modeling; engineering, economic development, and resource management; oceans and geophysics; science, technology, and public policy; energy, environment, and sustainability.

Michael McElroy studies changes in the composition of the atmosphere with an emphasis on the impact of human activity. His research includes investigations of processes affecting the abundance of ozone in the stratosphere and factors influencing the chemical composition of the troposphere. It explores the manner in which changes in the composition of the atmosphere affect climate.

Professor McElroy seeks to place the impact of contemporary human activity in a larger context by studying large-scale changes in the environment that occurred in the past. His research addresses also challenges for public policy posed by the rapid pace of industrialization in developing countries such as China and India while exploring alternative strategies for more sustainable development in mature economies such as the United States. He is the Chair of the Harvard China Project, which researches the environmental changes, atmospheric systems, and their impact on populations in China.

From the Fairbank Podcast: 



Xi LU, Michael B. McElroy, Chris P. Nielsen, Xinyu Chen, and Junling Huang. 2013. Optimal Integration of Offshore Wind Power for a Steadier, Environmentally Friendlier, Supply of Electricity in China. Energy Policy 62 (2013) 131–138

Huang, Junling, Xi Lu, and Michael B. McElroy. 2013. Adopting a Meteorologically Based Configuration of Wind Resources to Minimize the Variability of Associated Power Generation in the US. Renewable Energy, 62 (Feb. 2014) 331–340

Michael B. McElroy and Xi Lu, 2013, Fracking's Future Natural gas, the economy, and America's energy prospects, Harvard Magazine, January-Feruary 2013

Michael B. McElroy and Xi Lu, 2013, The Keystone XL Pipeline, Harvard Magazine, November-December 2013

Chen XY, Lu X, McElroy MB, Nielsen CP, Kang CQ. Synergies of Wind Power and ElectrifiedSpace Heating: A Case Study for Beijing. Environmental Science & Technology. Submitted


Huang, Junling, and Michael B. McElroy. 2012. The contemporary and historical budget of atmospheric CO2. Canadian Journal of Physics 90(8): 707-716, doi:10.1139/p2012-033.

Lu, Xi, Michael B. McElroy, Gang Wu, and Chris P. Nielsen. 2012. Accelerated reduction of SO2 emissions from the US power sector triggered by changing prices of natural gas. Environmental Science and Technology 46(14): 7882-7889, doi:10.1021/es301023c. (Click here to see coverage in Chemical & Engineering News.)

Lu, Xi, Jackson Salovaara, and Michael B. McElroy. 2012. Implications of the recent reductions in natural gas prices for emissions of CO2 from the US power sector.Environmental Science and Technology 46(5): 3014–3021, doi:10.1021/es203750k. (Click here to see coverage in the Harvard Gazette.)

Wu, Gang, Yi-Ming Wei, Chris P. Nielsen, Xi Lu, and Michael B. McElroy. 2012. A dynamic programming model of China's strategic petroleum reserve: General strategy and the effect of emergencies. Energy Economics 34(4): 1234-1243, doi:10.1016/j.eneco.2011.11.008.

Wu, Gang, Xi Lu, Chris P. Nielsen, Yi-Ming Wei, and Michael B. McElroy. Submitted (2012b). Optimization of China's crude oil import strategy: An empirical analysis. Energy Policy.

Zhao, Yu, Chris P. Nielsen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2012. How accurate are estimates of China's CO2 emissions?: Recent trends, uncertainties, and spatial distributions. Atmospheric Environment 59: 214-223, doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2012.05.027.(Click here to see coverage in United Press International and ScienceDaily ).

Zhao, Yu, Chris P. Nielsen, Michael B. McElroy, Lin Zhang, and Jie Zhang. 2012. CO emissions in China: Uncertainties and implications of improved energy efficiency and emission control. Atmospheric Environment 49: 103-113, doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2011.12.015.


Lin, Jin-Tai, and Michael B. McElroy. 2011. Detection from space of a reduction in anthropogenic emissions of nitrogen oxides during the Chinese economic downturn. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 11: 8171-8188, doi:10.5194/acp-11-8171-2011.

Lu, Xi, Michael B. McElroy, and Nora Sluzas. 2011. Costs for integrating wind into the future ERCOT system with related costs for savings in CO2 emissions. Environmental Science & Technology 45(7): 3160–3166, doi:10.1021/es103948t.

Lu, Xi, Jeremy Tchou, Michael B. McElroy, and Chris P. Nielsen. 2011. The impact of production tax credits on the profitable production of electricity from wind in the U.S. Energy Policy 39(7): 4207-4214, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.04.034.

McElroy, Michael B. 2011. Energy: Perspectives, Problems and Prospects (Chinese language edition). Beijing: Science Press. In Chinese.

Zhao, Yu, Chris P. Nielsen, Yu Lei, Michael B. McElroy, and Jiming Hao. 2011a. Quantifying the uncertainties of a bottom-up emission inventory of anthropogenic atmospheric pollutants in China. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 11: 2295-2308, doi:10.5194/acp-11-2295-2011.

Zhao, Yu, Michael B. McElroy, Jia Xing, Lei Duan, Chris P. Nielsen, Yu Lei, and Jiming Hao. 2011c. Multiple effects and uncertainties of emission control policies in China: Public health, soil acidification, and global temperature. Science of the Total Environment 409(24): 5177-5187, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.08.026.


Lin, Jin-Tai, Michael B. McElroy, and K. Folkert Boersma. 2010. Constraint of anthropogenic NOx emissions in China from different sectors: A new methodology using separate satellite retrievals. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 10(1): 63-78.

Lin, Jin-Tai., and Michael B. McElroy. 2010. Impacts of boundary layer mixing on pollutant vertical profiles in the lower troposphere: Implications to satellite remote sensing. Atmospheric Environment 44(14):1726-1739, doi:10.1016 / .atmosenv.2010.02.009

McElroy, Michael B. 2010. Challenge of global climate change: Prospects for a new energy paradigm. Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering in China, DOI 10.1007/s11783-010-0005-8.

McElroy, Michael B. 2010. Energy: Perspectives, Problems and Prospects. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies