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Tyler Prize winners

February 25, 2009 | 12:57 pm

A Southern California atmospheric scientist who predicted the signs of climate change nearly three decades ago is sharing in a $200,000 science prize.

The 2009 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement has been awarded to Veerabhadran "Ram" Ramanathan, a professor of atmospheric and climate sciences at UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Richard Alley, a Penn State University geosciences professor.

Ramanathan was the first to show that ozone-depleting aerosols could aggravate the greenhouse effect. In 1980 he correctly predicted that carbon-dioxide induced global warming would be detectable by 2000.

More recently, he showed that South Asian "brown clouds" produced by fossil fuel burning could lower ocean temperatures, slowing monsoon circulation and reducing rainfall.

Alley's study of ice cores from Greenland and West Antarctica has shown that Earth has experienced abrupt climate change in the past and likely will again.

The prize committee recognized the pair for "their scientific contributions that advanced understanding of how human activities influence global climate."

Winners of the prize, administered by the University of Southern California, receive gold medals along with the cash award. Alley and Ramanathan will deliver public lectures at USC's Davidson Conference Center April 23 at 2 p.m.

-- Bettina Boxall