Although Yb:YAG has been cooled in a vacuum environment1, we report for the first time an experimental demonstration of optical cooling at atmospheric pressure. A Yb:YAG crystal is supported on thin silica fibers, inside a matt-black chamber with air at atmospheric pressure, and pumped at 1029 nm in the pulsed and CW regimes. Direct measurement of the crystal surface temperature during pumping was made possible by using a low thermal-mass, transparent fiber Bragg grating (FBG) sensor. The FBG interrogation system has sufficient sensitivity to measure the background absorption of the sample to below 10-4 cm-1, and bulk cooling at a pump power as low as 17 mW. The dynamical measurement of the temperature allows the determination of the overall heat transfer coefficient of the sample in the air, of 22 W.m-2K-1. A temperature drop of 8.8 K from the chamber temperature is observed in the Yb:YAG crystal in air when pumped with 4.2 W at 1029 nm, close to 8.9 K observed in vacuum1. A background absorption αb = 2.9×10-4 cm-1 is estimated with a pump wavelength at 1550 nm. Simulations predict further cooling when the sample’s cross sectional area and the pump power are optimized, including absorption saturation effects. The choice of an efficient geometry, the use of a readily available temperature sensor in less controlled environments should simplify implementation of laser cooling systems and the development of commercial devices.