Pieter Tans, Ph.D., awarded the Roger Revelle Medal at the 2010 fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco for his work in expanding our understanding of the global carbon cycle and raising awareness for climate change.
Among his many achievements, Tans is best known for discovering that the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels that are not accounted for in the ocean or the atmosphere is stored in land ecosystems in the Northern Hemisphere. He heads the Carbon Cycle and Greenhouse Gases group at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colo.
The award citation also notes his creation of a simple formula that is now universally followed in the field; his role in fostering the creation of CarbonTracker, a system that calculates carbon dioxide uptake and release at the Earth’s surface over time; and his invention of AirCore, an instrument used to record trace gases in air samples. Tans’ leadership for carbon cycle research in other nations and his role in making the data collected through the carbon program freely available are also noted.
The Revelle Medal, named for oceanographer Roger Revelle, is awarded yearly to an individual “for outstanding contributions in atmospheric sciences, atmosphere-ocean coupling, atmosphere-land coupling, biogeochemical cycles, climate, or related aspects of the Earth system.” The award was established in 1991.
“This honor for Pieter recognizes his many contributions to understanding the Earth’s carbon cycle,” said Alexander MacDonald, ESRL director, and deputy assistant administrator for NOAA Research. “While the award honors an individual’s achievements, it also honors NOAA’s overall climate science.”
Tans is the second NOAA scientist to be awarded the Revelle Medal; Syukuro Manabe, who was at the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, was the 1993 recipient for his pioneering work in using computers to simulate global climate change.NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.