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A paper written by JPL ozone researcher Dr. Mario Molina, which has come to form the basis for current scientific understanding of Antarctic ozone depletion, has been recognized by Science magazine as the best paper it published during the June 1987-May 1988 period.
Molina and his co-workers Dr. Luisa Molina, Dr. Tai-Ly Tso and Dr. Frank C. Y. Wang have received the AAAS Newcomb-Cleveland Prize from Science magazine. Their paper, entitled "Antarctic Stratospheric Chemistry of Chlorine Nitrate, Hydrogen Chloride and Ice: Release of Active Chlorine," deals with chemical transformations of atmospheric trace species that take place during August and September when the ozone layer over Antarctica is depleted by as much as 50 percent.
The prize, shared with colleagues at SRI International who published companion paper, consists of bronze medal and cash award of $5,000. The award was presented January 17, 1989 in ceremonies during the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in San Francisco.
"It's very flattering. It was very nice surprise because Science (magazine) publishes several different topics. We were competing with many other fields not just environmental science," Molina said.
Based on results from Molina's laboratory at JPL, the paper provided the first evidence to explain how atmospheric ozone is destroyed by chlorine released from man-made chloroflurocarbons. In their experiments, the Molina group reproduced conditions in the polar stratosphere and showed how chlorine is liberated from an inert form, hydrochloric acid, and converted to form that is easily broken down by sunlight -- paving the way for it to attack ozone.
In the 1970s, while at the University of California at Irvine, Molina was one of two chemists who originally called attention to the possible role of chloroflurocarbons in destroying ozone. His award-winning paper takes his research step further and concentrates specifically on the ozone hole over Antarctica.
The AAAS Newcomb-Cleveland Prize is the oldest award presented by the science association.
The JPL research is sponsored by NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications.