Nav: Home

NASA atmospheric scientist 2015 AGU Roger Revelle Medal winner

December 14, 2015

Anne Thompson, chief scientist for atmospheric chemistry at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has received the 2015 Roger Revelle Medal for her pioneering research in the understanding of ozone and other trace gases in the troposphere and stratosphere. The medal was presented at the Fall American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco, California.

Established in 1991, the award honors Roger Revelle's substantial influence in broadening global change awareness. Thompson is cited "for outstanding contributions in atmospheric sciences, atmosphere-ocean coupling, atmosphere-land coupling, biogeochemical cycles, climate, or related aspects of the Earth system."

"Anne's colleagues are thrilled to hear that she has won the 2015 Revelle Medal. Her profound scientific discoveries are matched only by her generous and collegial spirit," said Russell Dickerson, professor of atmospheric and oceanic science, University of Maryland (UMD), College Park, Maryland. "The remote tropics, for example, should be as close to pristine as is possible on this planet, but Anne's work demonstrated that man-made pollution is common in some seasons and is changing the atmosphere's ability to cleanse itself. These findings were made possible by her leadership and scrappy support of a broad international coalition of scientists coordinating efforts over many years."

Thompson considers herself fortunate to have been working with NASA during the 1980s when the Antarctic ozone hole was discovered. "We used models to figure out how perturbed ultraviolet waves would affect surface ozone. Greenhouse gases like methane were increasing at that time, a phenomenon that not only had climate impact but feedbacks on carbon monoxide, tropospheric ozone and other indicators of air quality," stated Thompson. Along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we looked at different scenarios for limiting methane, a topic that is relevant again with global methane increases due to non-traditional natural gas extraction like fracking."

This work, conducted in the 1980s and early 1990s, was among the first to link chemical changes, climate forcings and the earth's oxidizing capacity. It established Thompson's research theme, studying natural cycles and human influences -- aviation emissions, fires and urban pollution - on atmospheric trace gases.

A veteran of dozens of field experiments, including oceanographic cruises and NASA aircraft campaigns, Thompson characterized the Atlantic "ozone paradox" with Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer data and used early ocean color data to estimate sea-to-air fluxes of biological sulfur, a key process in chemistry-climate feedbacks. Recently, Thompson has been part of a Goddard team using high-resolution Ozone Monitoring Instrument nitrogen dioxide data to pinpoint cities where air quality has improved over the past decade and where it has deteriorated. Thompson's latest fieldwork has been with the Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality (DISCOVER-AQ) Earth Venture project.

"DISCOVER-AQ taught us three things," Thompson stated. "First, balloons, satellites and aircraft show recurrent impacts of stratospheric intrusions in near-surface ozone in summer, something unexpected. At high-elevation locations, that means a natural process can cause an air quality alert. Second, our 2014 work in the oil and gas fields near Denver showed unhealthy levels of toxics like benzene. Third, you can work for a month without getting the weather patterns that cause pollution."

Thompson's best known work is the Southern Hemisphere Additional Ozonesondes (SHADOZ), a partnership with a dozen tropical nations begun in 1998, that has provided the scientific community with thousands of ozone profiles. Researchers all over the world use SHADOZ data to validate satellites. The team has found surprising trends at some SHADOZ sites as well as signals of the El Niño cycle.

Prior to joining Goddard's Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics branch in 1986, Thompson was a postdoctoral researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California. Working with Oliver Zafiriou and Revelle medalist Ralph Cicerone, Thompson left a mark in marine atmospheric studies of the cycling of formaldehyde.

"Formaldehyde has a reputation as a major pollutant but over the oceans, it is naturally created by methane oxidation," Thompson said. "We showed that oceanic bacteria metabolize formaldehyde. Twenty-five years later, thanks to satellites like Aura's OMI, we know that the biggest satellite 'hot spots' of formaldehyde are over forests in tropical Africa, South America and the southeast U.S."

Thompson's groundbreaking contributions have inspired researchers and scientists in developing areas of the world. She remains thankful for the advice she received when she first came to NASA, "do good science, try new ideas and the rest will follow."

"Anne drives scientific discovery with her enthusiasm, insights, and experience. Her impact on atmospheric science comes from her outstanding research and her science leadership, but it also comes from the many collaborations that she forges within atmospheric science and with other disciplines," stated William Brune, distinguished professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, State College.

As a professor of meteorology at Penn State, Thompson challenged students to consider atmospheric issues, encouraging them to expand their roles as the caretakers of our fragile environment through public service. Although she returned to Goddard in June 2013, she is still an adjunct faculty member at Penn State and also in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences department at UMD.

Thompson has received numerous prestigious awards and most recently was elected a corresponding member in science of the Academy of Athens in November 2015.
-end-
For more information about Anne Thompson, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/anne-thompson-adventures-in-the-atmosphere/

For more information about the American Geophysical Union, visit:

http://www.agu.org

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Related Methane Articles:

New 3D view of methane tracks sources
NASA's new 3-dimensional portrait of methane concentrations shows the world's second largest contributor to greenhouse warming.
Show me the methane
Though not as prevalent in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas.
Containing methane and its contribution to global warming
Methane is a gas that deserves more attention in the climate debate as it contributes to almost half of human-made global warming in the short-term.
Microorganisms reduce methane release from the ocean
Bacteria in the Pacific Ocean remove large amounts of the greenhouse gas methane.
Origin of massive methane reservoir identified
New research provides evidence of the formation and abundance of abiotic methane -- methane formed by chemical reactions that don't involve organic matter -- on Earth and shows how the gases could have a similar origin on other planets and moons, even those no longer home to liquid water.
Unexpected culprit -- wetlands as source of methane
Knowing how emissions are created can help reduce them.
Methane-consuming bacteria could be the future of fuel
Northwestern University researchers have found that the enzyme responsible for the methane-methanol conversion in methanotrophic bacteria catalyzes the reaction at a site that contains just one copper ion.
New measurement method for radioactive methane
The method developed by Juho Karhu in his PhD thesis work is a first step towards creating a precise measuring device.
New key players in the methane cycle
Methane is not only a powerful greenhouse gas, but also a source of energy.
Diffusing the methane bomb: We can still make a difference
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, causing the carbon containing permafrost that has been frozen for tens or hundreds of thousands of years to thaw and release methane into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to global warming.
More Methane News and Methane Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 3: Shared Immunity
More than a million people have caught Covid-19, and tens of thousands have died. But thousands more have survived and recovered. A week or so ago (aka, what feels like ten years in corona time) producer Molly Webster learned that many of those survivors possess a kind of superpower: antibodies trained to fight the virus. Not only that, they might be able to pass this power on to the people who are sick with corona, and still in the fight. Today we have the story of an experimental treatment that's popping up all over the country: convalescent plasma transfusion, a century-old procedure that some say may become one of our best weapons against this devastating, new disease.   If you have recovered from Covid-19 and want to donate plasma, national and local donation registries are gearing up to collect blood.  To sign up with the American Red Cross, a national organization that works in local communities, head here.  To find out more about the The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which we spoke about in our episode, including information on clinical trials or plasma donation projects in your community, go here.  And if you are in the greater New York City area, and want to donate convalescent plasma, head over to the New York Blood Center to sign up. Or, register with specific NYC hospitals here.   If you are sick with Covid-19, and are interested in participating in a clinical trial, or are looking for a plasma donor match, check in with your local hospital, university, or blood center for more; you can also find more information on trials at The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. And lastly, Tatiana Prowell's tweet that tipped us off is here. This episode was reported by Molly Webster and produced by Pat Walters. Special thanks to Drs. Evan Bloch and Tim Byun, as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.