NOAA Researchers Honored for Outstanding Scientific Publications

2009 Awards Presented to 10 Boulder Scientists

October 13, 2009

Ten Boulder-area researchers have received 2009 Outstanding Scientific Paper Awards from NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research for discoveries that are expected to help improve weather forecasting and offer scientists a potential new tool to improve understanding of the global carbon cycle.

Richard W. Spinrad, Ph.D., NOAA assistant administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research, and Alexander E. MacDonald, Ph.D., NOAA deputy assistant administrator for Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes, announced the awards in a recent organization-wide meeting. The 10 Boulder area recipients conduct research in the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory and the NOAA-funded Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science at the University of Colorado. They authored two papers that significantly advanced understanding of atmospheric processes.

“These papers reflect the pre-eminence, the vision, and the passion of NOAA researchers,” Spinrad said. “Their work provides a strong foundation for understanding the complex oceanic and atmospheric systems that govern our planet.”

The Boulder area recipients, by research team, include:

  • Paul Neiman; Martin Ralph, Ph.D. and Gary Wick, Ph.D., Physical Sciences Division
  • Stephen Montzka, Ph.D., Bradley Hall, Ph.D., James, Elkins, Ph.D., Thomas Conway, Pieter Tans, Ph.D., and Colm Sweeney, Ph.D., of the Global Monitoring Division; and Paul Calvert, Ph.D., of the NOAA-funded Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science at the University of Colorado.

The Physical Sciences Division team, led by Neiman, is receiving the Outstanding Scientific Paper Award for their study on atmospheric rivers — long, narrow plumes that transport water vapor toward the poles — and their impact on snow and rain patterns along the West Coast of North America.

Published in the Journal of Hydrometeorology, their paper used satellite data to identify atmospheric rivers that make landfall along the West Coast. It also describes, for the first time, the impact these rivers have on precipitation along the West Coast — increased snow in winter and decreased rain in spring.

The findings are expected to improve weather forecasting and flood prediction. Co-authors Jessica Lundquist, Ph.D., of the University of Washington at Seattle, and Michael Dettinger, Ph.D., of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography/University of California San Diego, are also receiving the Outstanding Scientific Paper Award.

The Global Monitoring Division team, led by Montzka, studied factors that influence the abundance of carbonyl sulfide in the atmosphere, a trace gas that impacts climate and stratospheric ozone levels. Their work showed for the first time how closely carbonyl sulfide is connected to the global carbon cycle. The team demonstrated that across broad regions of the atmosphere, carbonyl sulfide variations appear to be tightly linked to photosynthesis.

“This is important because we do not have good tools for understanding how the uptake of carbon by plants changes from year to year in response to changes in climate,” Montzka said. “Scientists are particularly interested in carbonyl sulfide as a result of this work because it shows promise as an important new tool for improving our understanding of the carbon cycle.”

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