OSU alumnus Warren Washington to receive prestigious Tyler Prize for pioneering climate studies

Pioneering climate scientist Warren Washington, who received his bachelor and master’s degrees from Oregon State University, has been named co-recipient of the 2019 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.

Also receiving the award is well-known climate change expert Michael Mann, who developed the “hockey stick graph” showing how the Earth is warming.

The pair will deliver a public lecture about their work on May 2 at the University of California, San Francisco Mission Bay Conference Center, and receive their awards in a ceremony on May 3 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. The Tyler Prize is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize for the Environment.” Washington is the first African-American to receive the prize in its 46-year history.

A native of Portland, Oregon, Washington is credited with writing the book on climate modeling. He collaborated on the construction of one of the first computer models of the Earth’s climate, and as technology advanced he expanded the model to incorporate oceans, sea ice and rising levels of carbon dioxide.

“Warren is truly a pioneer in the field of climate science – we can still see his first footsteps,” said Philip Mote, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School at Oregon State and professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. Mote has known Washington since Mote was a graduate student at the University of Washington.

Washington’s early models enabled scientists to calculate the impact of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and were instrumental to the findings of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report, which was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

A global leader in climate modeling, Washington advised six U.S. presidents on climate change: Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. President Obama awarded him the 2010 National Medal of Science.

Washington earned a B.S. in physics from OSU in 1958, and a master’s degree in general science in 1960. After receiving his Ph.D. at Pennsylvania State University, he began his professional career at the newly created National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Washington and Mann will share the $200,000 prize.

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