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Columbia Geochemist Wins National Medal of Science

Wallace S. Broecker, Newberry Professor of Geology at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., has been named to receive the National Medal of Science, President Clinton announced today.

Professor Broecker, one of eight scientists selected for the medal, was cited for "his pioneering contributions in understanding chemical changes in the ocean and atmosphere," as well as for his research on global climate change. He is the 13th Columbia scientist to receive the medal, the nation's highest scientific award, since it was first presented in 1962.

Last week, Professor Broecker was named to receive the 1996 Blue Planet Prize for achievements in global environmental research. The international prize, given by the Asahi Glass Foundation, includes an award of 50 million yen, about $463,000.

The Columbia geochemist recognized a decade ago the presence of a "great conveyor belt" of ocean currents that girdles the globe and plays a critical role in earth's climate. His research has shown that the earth's climate has shifted abruptly many times in the past, and he has been a leading voice warning of the potential danger of increased greenhouse gases in earth's atmosphere. In recent years, he has spearheaded efforts to use Biosphere 2, now managed by Columbia, as a laboratory to test the potential effects of greenhouse gases on ecosystems.

He earned his B.A. and Ph.D. at Columbia in the 1950's and has held professorships at the University throughout his career. He has pioneered a number of new approaches to studying the earth's climate, including the use of carbon and other isotopes to date marine sediments. Professor Broecker has examined ocean circulation patterns over time, studied gas exchanges between the ocean and the atmosphere, and traced carbon as it cycles through the earth's chemical, physical and biological systems.

Professor Broecker is a resident of Closter, N.J.

Editors: Press materials on the National Medal of Science are available from Andi McCarthy or Mollie Katz at Burness Communications, Bethesda, Md., (301) 652-1558.