Scripps scientist shares award

V. Ramanathan, a climate and atmospheric scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD, is one of two scientists who will share the 2009 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.

He and Richard Alley, professor of geosciences at Penn State University, will share the award for their work demonstrating the global reach and severity of human impacts on climate. It comes with a $200,000 cash prize and gold medals that they’ll receive at a banquet on April 24 in Beverly Hills.

The men were selected “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,” according to a Scripps news release.

Ramanathan, a La Jolla resident, 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.

Ramanathan also chairs a committee of the National Research Council that last week released a report calling for the federal government’s climate changes research program to broaden its focus to include research that would support actions needed to cope with climate change-related problems that will impact society, while building on its successful research to improve understanding of the causes and processes of climate change.

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.

  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography news release