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Climate Scientists Awarded 2019 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement

The 2019 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, described as the “Nobel Prize for the Environment,” has been awarded to two climate scientists: Michael E. Mann, Ph.D., distinguished professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, and Warren M. Washington, Ph.D., distinguished scholar at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

"The Tyler Prize Executive Committee is honored to recognize two outstanding scientists, who have not only advanced our knowledge of climate change, but also demonstrated exceptional courage and commitment to public policy," said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Tyler Prize Chair.

Mann pioneered the use of climate proxy data – including ice cores, tree rings, and lake sediments – to estimate global temperatures more than 1,000 years into the past. His analysis showed compelling evidence that Earth's climate was getting warmer, producing a pattern that became known as the "Hockey Stick Graph."

"We are all indebted to Dr. Mann's work as a pioneering researcher and climate communicator," said Al Gore, former U.S. vice president. "Dr. Mann has continued to press forward, defending his work and that of the entire scientific enterprise."

"He has become one of the 'go-to' scientists when the U.S. media wants an explanation for the latest scientific findings about climate change or the connection between the latest disaster and climate change," said Prof. Jane Lubchenco, former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "He is a staunch defender of good science, but he does not suffer fools lightly and routinely calls them out in a very public manner. He is edgy, but right."

Washington collaborated on the construction of one of the first computer models of Earth's climate. As computing power increased, he headed a cooperative effort to make additions to his atmospheric climate model, including oceans, sea ice, and rising CO2 levels. The early models allowed scientists to predict the impact of increasing CO2 and were instrumental to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Gore.

Washington is considered a global leader in climate modeling and has advised six U.S. presidents on climate change. President Barack Obama 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, speaking 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."

On May 2, Dr. Mann and Dr. Washington will deliver a public lecture on their work at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center. In a private ceremony on May 3, the Tyler Prize Executive Committee and the international environmental community will honor the two Laureates during a ceremony at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.

The prize of $200,000 will be shared equally between the two men. The Tyler Prize is administered by the University of Southern California.

(Photos shown in this article are credited to Joshua Yospyn.)

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