Service to America Medal Awarded to NOAA's Dr. Susan Solomon

September 16, 2010

In recognition of her pioneering work that altered the course of atmospheric research, Susan Solomon, a NOAA senior scientist, was awarded the Career Achievement Service to America medal Sept. 15 in a Washington, D.C., ceremony.

“It’s been a privilege doing science to serve the American public, and receiving this wonderful award is one of the most humbling experiences of my life,” said Solomon, who is based at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

Solomon is the second NOAA scientist to win a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, or SAMMIE. In 2008, Eddie Bernard, director of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, won for his work in establishing an international tsunami detection and forecast system.

“At NOAA, I am proud to say that our standards for achievement are quite high. We have a team of scientists who are consistently producing awe-inspiring and important work. They provide much of the knowledge we need to address many of our world's environmental challenges,” said Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “But Susan exceeds anyone’s standards. The nation has benefited from her three decades at NOAA, and we celebrate her accomplishments.”

Solomon is best known for her groundbreaking work identifying the cause of the ozone hole. Solomon and her colleagues showed that this ozone depletion is caused by unusual chemistry involving human-made chlorofluorocarbons that occurs under the extremely cold conditions of Antarctica.  Her work was one of the scientific cornerstones on which the international Montreal Protocol was built, which curbed the use of ozone-destroying substances.

“Science is there to inform, but the choices of what to do are up to all of us,” Solomon often says, referring to how science is used to make an important policy decision.

Solomon also led another breakthrough study focusing on global warming. Her detailed research demonstrated how changes in surface temperature, rainfall and sea level are largely irreversible for more than 1,000 years after carbon dioxide emissions are completely stopped.

In 2002, she was elected co-chair of Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that published “The Physical Science Basis” in 2007. The IPCC was a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize that year.

In addition to her scientific research, Solomon is generous with her time as a science communicator — she often speaks about her work to audiences of all ages and education levels. She is a champion for women in science and frequently speaks to groups of young women. In 2009 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

She has been honored with a variety of national and international awards including the National Medal of Science, the Blue Planet Award, the Volvo Prize for the Environment and the American Geophysical Union’s Bowie Medal.

TheSamuel J. HeymanService to America Medalshave been presented annuallysince 2002 by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service to celebrate excellence in our federal civil service.

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