News FocusProfile: Veerabhadran Ramanathan

From Burning Dung to Global Warming and Back Again

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Science  16 Oct 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5951, pp. 362-363
DOI: 10.1126/science.326_362

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From his office at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Veerabhadran Ramanathan can see pollutant haze from San Diego blowing over the Pacific Ocean. Such “brown clouds” are his current scientific bread and butter: studying the pernicious boost they give to global warming. The brown smudge on the horizon also reminds him of childhood summers in rural southern India half a century ago, where his grandmother would cough endlessly over her smoky indoor cooking fire of sticks and dung. Fires like hers still stoke the mother of all brown clouds, the one over South Asia. Now, after a long and varied career in research, the 64-year-old climate scientist is returning to India in hopes of showing how rural Indian women can cook more cleanly while staving off disastrous changes to global climate.