by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)
According to jbhe.com, Warren Washington, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, has received the 2019 Tyler Prize for environmental achievement.
The award, administered by the University of Southern California, recognizes passionate environmental science dedication across a spectrum of environmental research fields. It is the premiere international award for environmental science and is often referred to as the “Nobel for the Environment.” Dr. Washington will share the award’s $200,000 honorarium with this year’s other winner, Michael Mann.
Dr. Washington’s research focuses on creating atmospheric computer models that use fundamental laws of physics to predict future states of the atmosphere and help scientists understand climate change. His past research involved using general circulation models and the Parallel Climate Model.
Before computers, our understanding of Earth’s climate was based purely on observations and theory; scientists were simply unable to calculate the complex interactions within and between Earth’s land, ocean, and atmosphere.
Recognizing the potential of early 1960’s computers, Washington overcame extraordinary technical limitations to collaborate on the construction of one of the first-ever computer models of Earth’s climate. As computing power increased, Dr. Washington lead a cooperative effort to make additions to his atmospheric climate model, including oceans, sea ice, and rising CO2 levels.
These early models allowed scientists to predict the impact of increasing CO2, and were instrumental to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment – for which Dr. Washington shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. His current research involves using the Community Earth System Model to study the impacts of climate change in the 21st century.
Considered a global leader in climate modeling, Dr. Washington advised six U.S. Presidents on Climate Change: Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama. Dr. Washington’s public service was recognized by President Obama, who awarded him the 2010 National Medal of Science.
“Dr. Washington literally wrote the earliest book on climate modeling,” said Shirley Malcom, Director of Education and Human Resources at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), of his seminal work, An Introduction to Three-Dimensional Climate Modeling – co-written with Dr. Claire Parkinson.
“Dr. Washington has been a pioneering climate scientist for over 40 years and has been at the leading edge of climate model development,” said Prof. John Shepherd, former Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. “Much of what is known about the Earth’s climate system and climate modeling is directly traceable to the lifelong work of Dr. Washington.”
Dr. Washington has served on the National Science Board as a member from 1994 to 2006 and as its chair from 2002 to 2006. In 2010, he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Obama.
Washington holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in meteorology both from Oregon State University, as well as a Ph.D. in meteorology from Pennsylvania State University.