V. Ramanathan, a renowned climate and atmospheric scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, is among two scientists who will share the 2009 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.
The award, consisting of a $200,000 cash prize and gold medals, will be awarded to Ramanathan and Richard Alley, professor of geosciences at Penn State University, for their work demonstrating the global reach and severity of human impacts on climate.
The Tyler Prize Executive Committee and the international environmental community will honor the recipients at a banquet and ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills on April 24.
"This is a great recognition and I intend to use it to seek practical solutions to the global warming problem," Ramanathan said. "We urgently need to address climate issues that concern society the most."
The prize committee recognized the two "for their scientific contributions that advanced understanding of how human activities influence global climate, and alter oceanic, glacial and atmospheric phenomena in ways that adversely affect planet Earth."
One of the world's leading atmospheric scientists, Ramanathan was the first to show that ozone-depleting aerosols could aggravate the greenhouse effect. In 1980, he correctly predicted that global warming from carbon dioxide would be detectable by the year 2000.
More recently, Ramanathan showed that South Asian "brown clouds" caused by the burning of fossil fuels could lower ocean temperatures, slowing down monsoon circulation and reducing seasonal rainfall. In a pioneering study with agricultural economists, he linked the phenomenon to a significant decrease in the Indian rice harvest. He has also linked the combined heating effect of greenhouse gases and brown clouds, which contain soot, trace metals and other particles, to the recent retreat of Himalayan glaciers that supply drinking water to billions of people.
Ramanathan also showed that black carbon particles in brown clouds absorb far more solar radiation than previously thought, contributing to the warming of the upper atmosphere.
"I currently consider Dr. Ramanathan to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, climate researcher," wrote Paul Crutzen, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and a former Scripps researcher, in support of Ramanathan's nomination.
Alley is widely credited with showing that Earth has experienced abrupt climate change in the past, and likely will again. He based his work on a meticulous study of ice cores from Greenland and West Antarctica. Up to two miles thick, the ice sheets contain a unique record of Earth's climate history.
"Among climate scientists, he is recognized as an outstanding example of a superlative researcher who has found a way to balance his passion for discovery with his duty to inform nonscientists of the crises that are looming," geophysicist Garry Clarke of the University of British Columbia wrote in support of Alley's nomination. "His wonderful book 'The Two-Mile Time Machine' (on the climate record from Greenland ice cores and its implications for humankind) combines good science with a serious message and succeeds, equally, with novices and experts."
Ramanathan and Alley served as authors on the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose members shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore.
On Thursday, April 23, at 2 p.m., Alley and Ramanathan will deliver public lectures at the Davidson Conference Center of the University of Southern California, which administers the prize.
The Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement is one of the premier awards for environmental science, energy and environmental health.
It was established by the late John and Alice Tyler in 1973 and is awarded annually. To date, 59 individuals associated with world-class environmental accomplishments have received the prestigious prize.
Tyler Prize Committee:
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest, and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical, and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today on every continent and in every ocean. The institution has a staff of more than 1,400 and annual expenditures of approximately $195 million from federal, state, and private sources. Scripps operates oceanographic research vessels recognized worldwide for their outstanding capabilities. Equipped with innovative instruments for ocean exploration, these ships constitute mobile laboratories and observatories that serve students and researchers from institutions throughout the world. Birch Aquarium at Scripps serves as the interpretive center of the institution and showcases Scripps research and a diverse array of marine life through exhibits and programming for more than 430,000 visitors each year. Learn more at scripps.ucsd.edu and follow us at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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