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Paul Crutzen

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Paul Crutzen

Paul J. Crutzen
Born Paul Jozef Crutzen
(1933-12-03) December 3, 1933 (age 80)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Fields Chemistry, Physics
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1995)

Paul Jozef Crutzen (born December 3, 1933) is a Dutch Nobel prize winning atmospheric chemist.

Early life

Crutzen's childhood began just a few years before the start of WWII. In September 1940, the same year Germany invaded The Netherlands, Crutzen entered his first year of elementary school. After many delays and school switches all caused by happenings in the war, Crutzen graduated from elementary school and moved onto “Hogere Burgerschool” (Higher Citizens School) in 1946 in which time he became fluent in French, English, and German. Along with languages his main focus were natural sciences in this school from which he graduated from in 1951. After this he entered a Middle Technical School where he studied Civil Engineering. However his schooling would be cut short as he had to serve 21 months of compulsory military service in the Netherlands.

1956 Crutzen met Terttu Soininen whom he would marry a few years later in February, 1958. December of that same year the couple had a daughter by the name of Liona. In March 1964 the couple had another daughter by the name of Sylvia.

Crutzen is best known for his research on ozone depletion. In 1970 Prof. Paul Crutzen pointed out that emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), a stable, long-lived gas produced by soil bacteria, from the Earth's surface could affect the amount of nitric oxide (NO) in the stratosphere. Crutzen showed that nitrous oxide lives long enough to reach the stratosphere, where it is converted into NO. Crutzen then noted that increasing use of fertilizers might have led to an increase in nitrous oxide emissions over the natural background, which would in turn result in an increase in the amount of NO in the stratosphere. Thus human activity could have an impact on the stratospheric ozone layer. In the following year, Crutzen and (independently) Harold Johnston suggested that NO emissions from supersonic aircraft, which fly in the lower stratosphere, could also deplete the ozone layer. He lists his main research interests as “Stratospheric and tropospheric chemistry, and their role in the biogeochemical cycles and climate”.[1] He currently works at the Department of Atmospheric Chemistry at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry,[2] in Mainz, Germany; the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego; and at Seoul National University,[3] South Korea. He was also a long-time adjunct professor at Georgia Institute of Technology and research professor at the department of Meteorology at Stockholm University, Sweden.[4]

He has co-signed a letter from over 70 Nobel laureate scientists to the Louisiana Legislature supporting the repeal of Louisiana’s creationism law, the Louisiana Science Education Act.[5] In 2003 he was one of 21 Nobel Laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto.[6]

Awards

This is a partial list. See[7] for more.

Anthropocene

Main article: Anthropocene

In 2000, in IGBP Newsletter 41, Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer, to emphasize the central role of mankind in geology and ecology, proposed using the term anthropocene for the current geological epoch. In regard to its start, they said:

To assign a more specific date to the onset of the "anthropocene" seems somewhat arbitrary, but we propose the latter part of the 18th century, although we are aware that alternative proposals can be made (some may even want to include the entire holocene). However, we choose this date because, during the past two centuries, the global effects of human activities have become clearly noticeable. This is the period when data retrieved from glacial ice cores show the beginning of a growth in the atmospheric concentrations of several "greenhouse gases", in particular CO2 and CH4. Such a starting date also coincides with James Watt's invention of the steam engine in 1784.[8]

Global warming

Steve Connor, Science Editor of the Independent, wrote: Professor Paul Crutzen, who won a Nobel Prize in 1995 for his work on the hole in the ozone layer, believes that political attempts to limit man-made greenhouse gases are so pitiful that a radical contingency plan is needed. In a polemical scientific essay that was published in the August 2006 issue of the journal Climatic Change, he says that an "escape route" is needed if global warming begins to run out of control.[9]

Professor Crutzen has proposed a method of artificially cooling the global climate by releasing particles of sulphur in the upper atmosphere,along with other particles at lower atmospheric levels, which would reflect sunlight and heat back into space. The controversial proposal is being taken seriously by scientists because Professor Crutzen has a proven track record in atmospheric research. If this artificial cooling method actually were to work, then we would be able to help reverse the effects of the pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels, buying us time to find a permanent energy replacement. This could be crucial in helping maintain the planet's integrity and livability.[10]

In January 2008, Crutzen published findings that the release of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions in the production of biofuels means that they contribute more to global warming than the fossil fuels they replace.[11]

Crutzen was one of 20 Nobel Laureates who signed the "Stockholm Memorandum" at the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability in Stockholm, Sweden on 18 May 2011.[12]

Nuclear winter

Crutzen was also a leader in promoting the theory of nuclear winter. Together with John Birks he wrote the first publication introducing the subject: "The atmosphere after a nuclear war: Twilight at noon" (1982).[13] They theorized the potential climatic effects of the large amounts of sooty smoke from fires in the forests and in urban and industrial centers and oil storage facilities, which would reach the middle and higher troposphere. They concluded that absorption of sunlight by the black smoke could lead to darkness and strong cooling at the earth’s surface, and a heating of the atmosphere at higher elevations, thus creating atypical meteorological and climatic conditions which would jeopardize agricultural production for a large part of the human population. Paul Crutzen states "Nuclear war could easily mean the destruction of not only our race, but most of the planetary life as well."

Selected publications

  • Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams, Will Steffen, Paul Crutzen (2010) The New World of the Anthropocene Environmental Science & Technology, 2010, 44 (7), pp 2228–2231.

See also

References

External links

  • His home page
  • Autobiography from nobelprize.org
  • CV from nobelprize.org
  • Entry on the ISI "highly cited" database
  • An Interview - Paul Crutzen talks to Harry Kroto Freeview video by the Vega Science Trust.

Template:Nobel Prize in Chemistry Laureates 1976-2000

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