Sammies nominee fights global warming

Dr. Susan Solomon, senior scientist in the Chemical Science division, NOAA

wfedstaff | June 3, 2015 9:11 am

Remember all that AquaNet you used back in the 80s?

Well, if you still use hair spray today, you should know that the contents in that can are different because of a federal employee.

Dr. Susan Solomon is a senior scientist in the Chemical Science division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

She is perhaps most famous for her work with chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are actually no longer used today because of the damage they cause to the ozone layer.


Besides being the first person to theorize that they were harming the global environment, she has also conducted detailed research on the overall phenomenon of global warming.

For this work, she has been nominate for a Service to America (Sammies) medal. The awards are given out every year by the Partnership for Public Service to federal employees for outstanding work.

Solomon has been nominated in the Career Achievement category.

While she was researching CFCs, she led expeditions to Antarctica, which she says was far from the usual day at the office.

“One of the fun things about doing work on Antarctica is that there isn’t always a lot of data, so sometimes you actually have to go down there and take measurements. We, for example, took measurements not only of ozone itself, but also of some of the other chemicals in the Antarctic atmosphere. One of the ways that we did that was by measuring the absorption of light coming in from the sun or the moon or the sky. The moon was actually the most fun, because we got to actually stand out in -40 degrees.”

While many might not think of working in such drastic conditions as ‘fun’, Solomon says she couldn’t help but be captivated by the pristine conditions. She adds that she did eventually get used to the cold, which made it more bearable.

As for the study of the climate itself, she says she tries to stay apolitical and instead wants to communicate the joys of science.

“I think we all ought to be interested in what’s happening to our planet. Whether or not we want to change the things that we do because of it is entirely our decision. To me, separating the politics from the science is a first step in making rational decisions about things and learning things.”

She adds that it is pretty easy to see that glaciers around the world are shrinking and sea levels are rising. She says there is also strong evidence that the overall temperature of the Earth has increased by a degree.

“The evidence is all around us. It’s because we have so many different kinds of measurements that all tell us the same thing, we can be confident that the world really is warming.”

Solomon has not only done work for NOAA, though. She was also a member of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“It was a very interesting experience. One of the things that’s really uplifting about that is the way that you can get scientists from all around the world, from all different cultures and languages, and get them together in a room and have them look at the data and be able to come to some useful conclusions. It’s so different from the political situation where different countries just don’t seem to be able to agree on anything. Science, I believe really can be the light of the world. It can tell us what’s going on.”

Read more of Federal News Radio’s Sammies coverage.

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