NOAA Researchers Honored for Outstanding Scientific Publications

2009 Awards Presented to Three Seattle Scientists

October 13, 2009

Three Seattle-area researchers have received 2009 Outstanding Scientific Paper Awards from the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. The three scientists are being honored for papers about discoveries on oceanic and atmospheric conditions that affect the West Coast.

Richard W. Spinrad, Ph.D., NOAA assistant administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research, and Alexander E. MacDonald, Ph.D., NOAA deputy assistant administrator for Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes, announced the awards in a recent organization-wide meeting. Two of the Seattle-area recipients conduct research in the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. The other is from the University of Washington at Seattle.

“These papers reflect the pre-eminence, the vision and the passion of NOAA researchers,” Spinrad said. “Their work provides a strong foundation for understanding the complex oceanic and atmospheric systems that govern our planet.”  

The Seattle area recipients are:

Feely and Sabine measured indicators of ocean acidification — a decline in the pH of seawater — along the West Coast from central Canada to northern Mexico. Ocean water is becoming more acidic as it absorbs increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In the northern Pacific Ocean, subsurface waters that are naturally acidic mix with carbon dioxide from the surface to produce waters that are corrosive to many organisms that produce shells and skeletons made of calcium carbonate such as clams, oysters and crabs.

Their study found that seasonal wind patterns pull the subsurface corrosive waters up onto the continental shelf where they come in contact with many economically important shellfish. These corrosive waters were not expected at the depth of the continental shelves for several decades. Published in the journal Science, this study shows that the combined effects of ocean acidification with other natural processes can accelerate the impacts of reduced pH on marine resources in our coastal regions.

Lundquist worked with a team of researchers from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., on a study on atmospheric rivers — long, narrow plumes that transport water vapor toward the poles — and their impact on snow and rain patterns along the West Coast of North America.

Published in the Journal of Hydrometeorology, their paper used satellite data to identify atmospheric rivers that make landfall along the West Coast. It also describes, for the first time, the impact these rivers have on precipitation along the West Coast — increased snow in winter and decreased rain in spring.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.