Prof. S K Satheesh (CAOS) received the prestigious Infosys Prize 2018 in Physical Sciences category for his pioneering work on studying black carbon aerosols.
The Infosys Prize is given annually by the Infosys Science Foundation to honour outstanding achievements of contemporary scientists across six categories. Visit the following sites for details
Prof. S.K.Satheesh has made significant scientific contributions with far-reaching societal implications through his persistent, innovative and original research contributions on the impact of light-absorbing aerosols, especially Black Carbon (or Soot) on the radiation balance of the Earth-atmosphere system and climate in a global perspective in general, and in the South Asian context in particular. His elucidation of the climate implications of light-absorbing particles and the putting forward a new hypothesis based on intuitive scientific research resolved the global issue of ‘anomalous’ absorption paradox, being debated by the international scientific community for over a decade.
Prof. Satheesh quantified aerosol radiative forcing, especially through absorption, over the highly heterogeneous and complex terrains of Asia and Africa. His extensive studies have demonstrated the highly absorbing nature of the Asian dust (in contrast to its African counterpart) leading to increased absorption of solar radiation, that partly offsets the cooling by sulphate aerosols on the one hand, and the effect of organic carbon, co-emitted with Black Carbon during biomass combustion, in off-setting the warming effect of Black Carbon. While light-scattering aerosols remained in global focus until early 2000s, Prof. Satheesh’s field experiments over the oceanic regions adjacent to India provided the first experimental evidence of the aerosol-induced absorption (due to black carbon) and consequent warming in the lower troposphere.
Prof. Satheesh intelligently synthesized field experiments with laboratory measurements and model simulations and put forward a new hypothesis to resolve the highly debated global issue of ‘anomalous’ absorption paradox. In the recent years, Prof. Satheesh has conceived and led numerous field experiments in remote and hostile environments over India and adjacent oceans, in pursuit of the science of aerosols, employing research ships and aircrafts, besides network of ground-based observatories. He was an integral part of several national and international field experiments. The national aircraft campaigns (during 2006-2015) in which Prof. Satheesh was the Chief Mission Scientist was a benchmark in scientific planning, meticulous execution and creative data analysis and interpretation. This has led to the discovery of elevated aerosol layers over India and strong meridional gradients in elevated aerosol warming, which have strong influence on regional climate.
To characterize the vertical transport of aerosols, Prof. Satheesh conducted experiments using high altitude balloons to make measurements of black carbon aerosols in the upper troposphere and estimated the resulting atmospheric impact as revealed by the environmental lapse rate. Prof. Satheesh’s investigations, published in a New Directions column, have indicated that transport of surface aerosols (specifically black carbon) to stratospheric altitudes can delay the recovery of stratospheric ozone hole by several decades, which is a serious global issue.
Prof. Satheesh’s contribution is remarkable not only in basic and applied science, but assumes great significance in societal applications involving generating knowledge action plans for sustainability and adaptation to climate change. His extensive inter-agency interactions in the field of sustainable water security, food security and regional efforts to slow down the deleterious effects of global warming has led to the establishment of the South Asia regional office of the International science-cum policy programme, “Future Earth” supported by various United Nations agencies. As the executive director of this South Asia regional office of “Future Earth”, Prof. Satheesh is evolving a vital link between science and policy, which would, in the long run, yield invaluable fruits.