NOAA/OAR Scientist Receives Presidential Rank Award

November 1, 2005

Dr. Petrus (Pieter) Tans, Senior Scientist in the Global Monitoring Division of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory (NOAA/ESRL), will receive a Presidential Rank, Meritorious level award, in a ceremony in Washington, DC, in early November. This award is presented to a select group of career federal executive level personnel, identified as strong leaders, professionals, and scientists who achieve results and consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry, and a relentless commitment to excellence in public service.


Carbon dioxide, a gaseous byproduct of the burning of coal, gas, oil, and wood, is the largest known contributor to global climate forcing, and, as such, is the most important human-produced greenhouse gas. As leader of the NOAA/ESRL Carbon Cycle and Greenhouse Gases Group, Dr. Tans has guided the development of NOAA's cooperative global surface monitoring network for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. With 65 globally distributed sites, this network is the largest in the world and constitutes the backbone of international observing systems for these gases. It is a critical component of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). By 1990 the data from this network were adequate to map out carbon dioxide concentrations around the world.


From these NOAA data for carbon dioxide and isotopes of the carbon dioxide, Dr. Tans established that the so called "missing" carbon dioxide, i.e., that which could not be accounted for as being sequestered in oceans, was been taken up by processes in the northern hemisphere, including the North American continent. This discovery was the stimulus for the North American Carbon Program, a multi-agency attempt to understand the uptake of carbon dioxide in North America, in particular in the U.S.. This understanding will allow more accurate climate projections and will provide both critical decision support information for minimizing the future impacts of climate change and science-based data for carbon management.