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nobel prize of climate change awarded to black scientist

February 15, 2019
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Being one of the first developers of groundbreaking atmospheric computer models, Dr. Warren Washington was essential to the way scientists understand climate change today. On February 12th, 2019, he was globally recognized for his incredible work as a pioneer with the 2019 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. This is a beautiful addition to his other well-deserved awards including the National Medal of Science presented to him at the White House by President Obama in 2010.

Dr. Washington has published over 200 papers in professional journals and is a former chair of the National Science Board. These days, he is a senior scientist at the National Science Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)  in Boulder, Colorado. A role model to the world but especially young researchers, he is only the second African-American to earn a doctorate in atmospheric sciences. 

Growing up, Dr. Washington had the support of teachers who encouraged him to follow his curiosity and discover for himself how things work. He discusses this with Popular Science saying,

“I had some wonderful teachers in high school, including a chemistry teacher who really got me started. One day I asked her, ‘Why are egg yolks yellow?’ She said, ‘why don’t you find out?'” So he did. He still remembers the answer : the sulfur compounds in chicken feed become concentrated in the yolk, turning it yellow. “I also had an excellent physics teacher,” he says, describing why he became an atmospheric physicist. 

As any story of Black greatness goes, not everyone believed in Dr. Washington at the beginning. At Oregon State University where he graduated in 1958, his freshmen advisor told him he shouldn’t stay in physics as it was probably too difficult for him. I wonder what his Master’s in Meteorology from Oregon State and his Doctorate in Atmospheric Science from Penn State would say about this. Maybe we should ask Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, Bush Jr., Clinton and Obama whom he advised in science during their Presidencies. 

When asked about how it felt to be awarded this huge honor, Washington told Clean Technica,

It was quite a surprise when I got a call one Saturday morning, saying that I would be awarded the Tyler Prize along with Michael Mann. I was extremely pleased to get that news, because it showed to me that the work of people like Michael Mann and I have been doing on climate change is getting the recognition that it deserves.

You are so deserving of this honor, Dr. Washington. Thank you for your hard work over the years.

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