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NOAA Researchers Honored for Outstanding Scientific Publications
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NOAA Researchers Honored for Outstanding Scientific Publications

2010 Awards Presented to 21 Scientists

Twenty-one researchers have received 2010 Outstanding Scientific Paper Awards from NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) for discoveries that are expected to help improve weather forecasting and further understanding of climate change and ozone depletion. Three papers were selected in the climate category and two were chosen in weather and water.

"OAR scientists continued to show excellence in their research in atmospheric chemistry, understanding physical cloud processes, and hurricane dynamics - areas crucial to NOAA's mission”, said Sandy MacDonald, Ph.D., OAR deputy assistant administrator for research laboratories and cooperative institutes.

Selections were deemed to be the most original, important, useful, and best written peer-reviewed publications published during the calendar years 2008 and 2009 from NOAA lab and cooperative institute scientists. After thorough review, the recipients were announced in late 2011. The winning papers by category are:


Nitrous Oxide (N2O): The Dominant Ozone-Depleting Substance Emitted in the 21st Century

A.R. Ravishankara, John Daniel, and Robert Portmann of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory Chemical Sciences Division evaluated the role of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions in thinning the Earth’s ozone layer. The ozone layer is a protective layer of our atmosphere that shields us from excessive ultraviolet light from the sun. Human activities emit chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and N2O, which eat away at this shield.

Their study, published in the journal Science, found that N2O is now the largest ozone-depleting emission and will continue to be so for the rest of this century. The 1987 Montreal Protocol regulates many ozone-depleting gas emissions including CFCs, but nitrous oxide, also a greenhouse gas, is not among them. This research is the first to evaluate nitrous oxide’s “ozone depletion potential”, a measure widely used to describe the potential impact of a substance on the Earth’s ozone layer. For more information, see the NOAA press release.

Irreversible Climate Change Due to Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Pioneering atmospheric scientist Susan Solomon led a team investigating the long-term effects of increasing carbon dioxide emissions. Solomon, now retired from her position at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory Chemical Sciences Division, and her European colleagues found that impacts to future climate are largely irreversible – even if carbon dioxide emissions are stopped completely.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, modeled the possible outcomes of future peak levels of carbon dioxide. The models resulted in higher global temperatures that would lead to precipitation changes and sea level rise in every scenario tested, and these impacts continued for centuries, even after new emissions were halted, because of the influence of the oceans. These findings illustrate that while the effects of increasing carbon emissions may be slow to appear, any reduction in emissions now or in the future will take centuries to reverse global impacts. For more information, see the NOAA press release.

Increase in background stratospheric aerosol observed with lidar at Mauna Loa Observatory and Boulder, Colorado

Atmospheric researchers David Hofmann, John Barnes, Michael O’Neill, Michael Trudeau, and Ryan Neely, from the Earth System Research Laboratory's Global Monitoring Division, measured background levels of particulates in a layer of the atmosphere called the stratosphere. The particulates they measured were sulfate aerosols, which collect in the air from natural sources such as volcanic eruptions as well as manmade sources like coal burning and can deflect sunlight to lead to a cooling effect on the atmosphere.

In their paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, the team documented an increase in the background level of aerosols in the stratosphere. They were able to do so because of a long lag in major volcanic activity between 1991 and 2009, allowing background levels to be observed at long-term NOAA lidar stations in Hawaii and Colorado. The authors suggest the increase in aerosols is due to higher emissions from coal burning in China, which could have implications for the global climate.

Weather and Water

Investigation of Microphysical Parameterizations of Snow and Ice in Arctic Clouds during M-PACE through Model-Observation Comparisons

NOAA scientists Amy Solomon, Ola Persson, Matthew Shupe, and Jian-Wen Bao from the Earth System Research Laboratory's Physical Sciences Division along with Hugh Morrison at the National Center for Atmospheric Research are honored for their work modeling Arctic clouds. Their results fill critical gaps in our understanding of how to accurately simulate snow and ice conditions in cloud formations.

In research published by Monthly Weather Review, the team used direct measurements provided by a Department of Energy experiment over the North Slope of Alaska to verify model outputs. This comparison allowed them to fine-tune the models, improving the way we understand the physics of water in Arctic stratoculmulus clouds. As Arctic conditions are examined in the face of aerosol emissions and global climate change, the results of this study will allow for more accurate model forecasts of variability in the region.

Structure of the eye and eyewall of Hurricane Hugo (1989)

Frank Marks and Peter Black from NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanic and Meteorological Laboratory Hurricane Research Division with the late Robert Burpee from the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami and a colleague from the Naval Postgraduate School took an in-depth look at the data collected by research aircraft flights through Hurricane Hugo, a category 5 storm at its maximum. This unique dataset provides the research community an unprecedented opportunity to understand rarely observed processes to better predict hurricane intensity change in the most demanding and extreme environment of one of the most intense storms.

Their paper, published in Monthly Weather Review, documents the flight path, mission challenges, and analysis of measurements collected during two NOAA P-3 aircraft flights into Hurricane Hugo, two days after the storm reached hurricane force winds and was in the process of building to a category 5 storm. The observations and analyses offer a rare glimpse into the intensification of a strong hurricane, an essential element in modeling intensity changes. With this data in hand, forecasters are better equipped to prepare and protect lives and property in a storm’s path.

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Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.


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