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Indian-American scientist wins prestigious Cozzarelli prize

March 12, 2007 14:41 IST

Indian American scientist V Ramanathan, along with economists Jeffrey Vincent and Maximilian Auffhammer, share the prestigious Cozzarelli Paper of the Year Prize for 2007.

Ramanathan, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography climate scientist, collaborated with Vincent, an economist in the Graduate School of International Affairs and Pacific Studies, and Auffhammer of UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources.

Their paper shows that reductions of air pollution could create agricultural benefits in the world's poorest regions.

It was among the six papers awarded the Cozzarelli Paper of the Year Prize by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The winning paper, which appeared in the December four issue of PNAS, related trends in Indian rice production to the
influence of climate trends from the 1960s through the 1990s.

It shows that atmospheric brown clouds and greenhouse gasses have reduced rice harvests in India.

Rice harvests increased dramatically in India during the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, making the country self-sufficient in its staple food. Harvest growth has slowed since the mid-1980s, however, raising concerns that food shortages could recur in this densely populated developing nation, it said.

Several explanations for the slowdown have been proposed, but until this paper, none had taken into account the complex interactions of two pollution-related sources of climate change: atmospheric brown clouds, which form
from soot and other fine particles in the air (collectively termed aerosols), and the better-known problem of global warming caused by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

The paper authored by Auffhammer, Ramanathan and Vincent took the top honour in the applied biological, agricultural, and environmental sciences category.

"I discovered a whole new world," said Ramanathan, who has earned his bachelor's degree in 1965 from the Annamalai
University in India, and his M Sc in 1970 from the Indian Institute of Science.

"It was really amazing what new findings one can come to when one crosses disciplines. That was one of the most rewarding experiences."

An atmospheric scientist, Ramanathan focuses his research on global climate dynamics, the greenhouse effect, aerosols, clouds, and the earth radiation budget.

He has contributed more than 150 publications to journals and books. Ramanathan is the Director of the Scripps/UCSD Center for Atmospheric Sciences and the co-chief scientist of the Asian Brown Cloud Project and the Indian Ocean Experiment, which led to the discovery of the South Asian brown haze and it radiative forcing.

He is widely recognised for his work in understanding the effects of trace gases, clouds and aerosols in the atmosphere. He was the first to demonstrate in 1975 that CFCs are major greenhouse gases.

The prize, named after Nick Cozzarelli, the late editor-in-chief of PNAS, will be presented at its Editorial Board Meeting on April 29, 2007, in Washington, DC.

Seema Hakhu Kachru in Houston
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