He received a B. South. in meteorology from Pennsylvania State University in 1961 and a Doctor of Philosophy in meteorology from New York University in 1966.
Somerville also sits on the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, where he is involved in the annual deliberations regarding the movement of the Bulletin"s famed Doomsday Clock. Somerville is a theoretical meteorologist and an expert on computer simulations of the atmosphere. His research is on the physics of clouds and their role in the climate system.
His interests include all aspects of climate, including climate science outreach and the interface between science and public policy.
This research is reflected by a long list of publications in highly respected, peer reviewed journals. He comments frequently on climate and environmental issues for the media.
He formally retired in 2007 but remains active in research, education and outreach. Somerville was involved for many years in a major research program at the Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes where he and his graduate students and postdoctoral fellows investigated ways to improve the realism of climate models.
Somerville was an organizer and signatory of the 2007 Bali Declaration by Climate Scientists.
Throughout 2009 he worked with an international team of 26 leading climate scientists to prepare the Copenhagen Diagnosis. The Copenhagen Diagnosis was released in the lead-up to the UNFCCC COP15 conference in Copenhagen. lieutenant synthesizes the most recent scientific findings from hundreds of peer reviewed papers in areas such as greenhouse gas emissions, sea level, glaciers, tipping points and extreme climate events, among other key topics.
In early 2010, Somerville recorded a series of interviews with American Broadcasting Company News, in which he discusses "Four Big Questions of Global Warming", "Disinformation and Medical Metaphors for Climate Change", and "Our Global Warming Game of Chicken".
Other interviews, lectures and popular writings can be found on his homepage.