Sensing Change: A. R. Ravishankara

This interview was conducted as part of the Institute’s yearlong Sensing Change initiative exploring the interconnections between art, science, and our changing environment.

A. R. Ravishankara is the director of the Chemical Sciences Division at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

What do we know about the chemistry of the atmosphere today? What knowledge does the future hold? How are climate change and air quality related? Ravishankara’s work has been dedicated to these questions. 

How do you get across that point that something you do today is going to affect somebody farther down the road?

— A. R. Ravishankara

Predictions of how our present actions will affect the future might be uncertain, but that uncertainty and those actions should be part of the conversation. 

A.R. Ravishankara discusses how we might be able to relate to an abstracted idea. 

Science can seem trapped in the lab. The medium of art can help make science into a beautiful, sensory experience.

Reason and logic happen creatively. Visualizations let us represent what words can’t quite capture.

To gain answers he has focused on several topics, including gas-phase chemistry, heterogeneous (or multiple-phase) chemistry, and photochemistry, which is of vital importance because the atmosphere is driven by solar radiation.

From his role in the 1987 expedition to Antarctica to gather data about the growing hole in the ozone layer to his cochair position on the Scientific Assessment Panel for the Montreal Protocol, Ravishankara has been a driving force behind the growing knowledge we have about our changing atmosphere. His most recent work has focused on nitrous oxide’s role as an ozone-depleting substance.


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