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Michelle Nijhuis of High Country News has won the 2006 Walter Sullivan 
Award for Excellence in Science Journalism—Features.  Awarded by the 
American Geophysical Union, Nijhuis is being recognized for a three-part 
series with the overall title, "Hot Times: Global Warming in the West," 
front-paged in High Country News on 24 January, 18 April, and 17 
October 2005.

In recognizing the reporting of Michelle Nijhuis (pronounced nye-house) 
in High Country News, the Sullivan Award selection committee said, 
"This series of articles did a particularly good job of combining science, 
policy, and human interest in telling the story of global warming from 
a regional perspective.  It was particularly well-written, discussing 
the techniques used to document paleoclimate throughout the western 
United States and how to estimate future climatic conditions. The articles 
include discussions of historical work of considerable interest as well 
as modern science so it is possible for the reader to see the 
progression of knowledge with time.  By writing a series of articles on a common 
underlying topic, Nijhuis is able to illustrate the interdisciplinary 
nature of global warming research and its effect on nature....It is an 
excellent example of science writing for the public; engaging, 
informative, unbiased, and easy to follow." 

For more than three decades, High Country News has covered the West’s 
natural resources, public lands, and changing communities, always 
looking for stories that illuminate larger trends in the region.  When editor 
Greg Hanscom and contributing editor Michelle Nijhuis began 
brainstorming a series of articles about the current impacts of climate change on 
the West, it quickly became clear that Michelle was the right person to 
properly tell this enormous and complicated story.  It was also clear 
that Michelle would need to spend several months on these stories, 
attending scientific gatherings with leading climate change researchers and 
traveling with the biologists, dendrochronologists and other scientists 
who became central to her stories. 

"Many High Country News readers have told us that these articles are 
among the best we’ve ever published. I wholeheartedly agree," says Paul 
Larmer, publisher of High Country News.

The winning series, posted in High Country News’ online archives, may 
be read at:




The AGU journalism awards will be presented during Honors Evening at 
the AGU/GS/MB/ MSA/SEG/UGM Joint Assembly in Baltimore, Maryland, 23-26 
May [http://www.agu.org/meetings/ja06/].  The Sullivan Award is named 
for Walter Sullivan, late science editor of The New York Times.  The 
award consists of a plaque and a $2,000 stipend.

For information on the 2007 Sullivan and Perlman Award competition, see 

- About the series
Nijhuis’ article "Written in the Rings" investigates a science that 
was, as she writes, "birthed and raised n the Interior West."  The study 
of tree rings began as an Arizona astronomer’s hobby, but it now plays a 
central role in the global debate over human-caused climate change.  
Tree ring patterns show, with disturbing certainty, that the Northern 
Hemisphere has warmed dramatically over the past several decades — a 
change likely without precedent in the past millennium.  They also show that 
the West’s most recent drought, though extreme, is just the latest in a 
long series of deep and frequent regional droughts. 

Her second story of 2005 addressed a pressing question for many in the 
West: "What Happened to Winter?" Last winter was so dry in the Pacific 
Northwest and Northern Rockies that governors declared a state of 
emergency, fearing a summer of massive drought and fires.  Many wondered, 
and worried, if the weird weather was caused by global climate change.  
Though Michelle’s article made it clear that no one weather event can be 
blamed on global warming, she explained that last winter may well be a 
harbinger of the future.

Her third story this year, "The Ghosts of Yosemite," looked at the 
effect of global warming on one of the iconic landscapes of the West — 
Yosemite National Park.  Michelle followed a crew of modern biologists as 
they retraced the steps of renowned researcher Joseph Grinnell, who 
surveyed the wildlife of the park in the early 1900s.  The modern 
scientists found that many small mammals had shifted their ranges uphill; a 
change they say can only be explained by global warming.  The shifts in 
Yosemite’s wildlife mirror changes already underway throughout the world.



*** NOAA FY2007 Budget Request ***

On February 9th, Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher presented the 
fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget request for the National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that totals $3.7 billion, a 5.8% decrease 
from last year’s allocation.  Most of the Line Offices are slated for a 
decrease with the exception of the National Weather Service that would 
receive $881.9 million (+4%) and the National Environmental Satellite, 
Data, and Information Service that would receive $1 billion (+8.6%).  The 
National Ocean Service would receive a total of $413.1 million, a 30% 
decrease from last year’s funding level, and the Office of Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Research would receive $348.7 million, an 8.2% decrease.  
The NOAA budget reports its Line Office funding split between the 
Operations, Research and Facilities (ORF) account, which supports most of the 
research activities at the agency, and the Procurement, Acquisition and 
Construction (PAC) account, which supports some research in areas
 such as supercomputing and the development of a national tsunami 
warning system.

Within the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) the PAC 
account is slated for an increase of 10.8% to total $10.4 million that 
will be used primarily for supercomputing research for the Climate Change 
Computing Initiative.  Other activities in OAR are supported by the ORF 
account that would be decreased by 8.6% overall for a total of $338.3 
million. Climate Research, one of the four themes in the OAR request, 
would total $181.2 million, a 6.8% increase from last year.  This amount 
includes $125.7 million for the Competitive Research Program that 
includes activities such as drought impact research to support the National 
Integrated Drought Information System and a new climate reanalysis 
datasets to improve operational climate prediction.  Also funding within 
the Competitive Research Program is the Integrated Ocean Observing System 
that has requested a $6.1 million increase to continue to build and 
maintain the Global Ocean Observing System.  This amount, according 
to the budget document, will allow for the completion of 59% of the 
planned system and will keep the program on track for completion in 2010.  
The requested $6.3 million for Climate Data and Information is more 
than double of last year’s allocation and funds programs such as the 
Climate Reference Network and the Global Climate Observing System.  The 
Weather and Air Quality Research request is $41.2 million, a 39% decrease.  
This account includes $38.2 million for laboratories and cooperative 
research and $3 million for the Tornado/Severe Storm Research 
(Phased-Array Radar).  The OAR budget also includes $103 million for Ocean, 
Coastal and Great Lake Research, an 18.7% decrease that supports the National 
Sea Grant College Program ($54.8 million), the National Undersea 
Research Program ($9.2 million), and Ocean Exploration ($15.1 million).  
Funding for Information Technology, Research and Development and Science 
Education would more than double for a total of $12.9 million tha!
t will focus primarily on high performance computing for improved 

The Office of National Ocean Service (NOS) requested $394.5 million; a 
20% decrease from last year’s funding level.  Activities related to 
Ocean Resources Conservation and Assessment would receive $126.4 million 
(-40%) that funds the Ocean Assessment account ($54.7 million), the 
Reponses and Restoration account ($24.7 million), and the National Centers 
for Coastal Ocean Science ($47 million).  Funding for the Ocean and 
Coastal Management activities would total $127.9 million and includes 
$66.1 million for Coastal Zone Management grants. Also within NOS is $24.3 
million, a 23.5% decrease, for the Geodesy program.

The National Weather Service requested $881.9 million, which includes 
$98.4 million from the PAC account for system acquisition and 
construction.  The remaining funds are focused on operation and research 
programs.  Funding for Local Warning and Forecasts would total $28.7 million 
and includes a range of activities: weather data buoys, strengthening the 
U.S. tsunami warning program, transferring the Wind Profilers from 
research to operations, expand efforts to improve aviation weather 
services, support of the Air Quality Forecasting Program, support for the Space 
Environment Center, support for the U.S. Weather Research Program, and 
continued implementation of the Advanced Hydrological Prediction 

The National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service 
(NESDIS) would receive $1033.9 million, of which more than half comes from 
the PAC account.  This $884.3 million includes $439.6 million for the 
Geostationary System (GOES), $89.9 million for the Polar Orbiting 
Environmental Satellite Systems (POES), and $337.9 million for the National 
Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite Systems (NPOESS).  
The ORF funding for NESDIS would total $149.6 million, a 15.8% decrease 
from last year’s allocation.  This decrease in part reflects the 
agency’s attempt to reduce the operational support for non-NOAA satellites.  
The request includes a $0.7 million for Coral Reef Monitoring.  NOAA’s 
Data Centers and Information Services requested $51.9 million, a 26.9& 

decrease from last year’s allocation.

Additional information on the Department of Commerce geoscience-related 
programs is available at 

Alert prepared by Margaret Anne Baker, Government Affairs Staff

Sources: NOAA budget documents



*** FY2007 Budget Request – NASA ***

The administration is requesting a total of $16.6 billion for NASA’s 
FY2007 budget, an overall increase of 3.2% from FY2006.  In keeping with 
the President’s "Vision for Space Exploration," the biggest boost goes 
to the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, which will receive an 
increase of $928 million in order to develop the Crew Exploration 
Vehicle and Crew Launch Vehicle by 2014.  In NASA's budget document they 
state “NASA is confident this budget provides sufficient funds to support 
the operational availability of these systems by no later than 2014. 
However, it is NASA’s goal to have these critical vehicles available to 
the Nation as soon as possible after the Space Shuttle completes it 
mission to assemble the International Space Station in 2010.  This budget 
also supports industry initiatives to supply commercial services to low 
Earth orbit.”  This increase is compensated by a large decrease in Space 
Shuttle funding (about $720 million would be cut from FY 2006 appr
opriations) as well as cuts in aeronautics research and education 

The request for the Science Mission Directorate shows a slight increase 
to $5.33 billion, up 1.5% from the FY2006 enacted level.  NASA 
Administrator Mike Griffin noted that “NASA’s budget for space and Earth 
Science has seen significant budget increases for over a decade, far 
surpassing any growth in NASA's top-line budgets during those years.  For FY 
2007-11, we cannot afford such growth for science within the context of a 
top-line budget that is growing at essentially the rate of inflation.  
Thus, NASA's science budget will grow by 1.5 percent in FY 2007 and 1 
percent thereafter between 2008 and 2011.”

Of the $5.33 billion requested for the Science Mission Directorate, 
$2.2 billion is devoted to the Earth-Sun System, which houses the agency’s 
Earth science programs.  The biggest change is a $137.8 million (84%) 
increase to the Earth Systematic Missions program.  This increase 
reflects in large part the Landsat Data Continuity Mission’s transition into 
from formulation to development beginning in March 2007, which is 
accompanied by a $71 million funding increase.  An additional increase of 
$38.4 million is requested for the National Polar Orbiting Environmental 
Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project due to a two-year delay 
in its launch date from October 2006 to April 2008.  Launch dates have 
also been delayed for the Ocean Surface Topography Mission (from April 
2008 to June 2008) and the Global Precipitation Mission (from June 2010 
to December 2012).

The largest cuts in the Earth-Sun System budget request are in the 
Applied Sciences and Explorer programs.  Although the Explorer budget is 
nearly halved by a $56.5 million (43%) cut, most of the decrease reflects 
a transition from development to operations for both the Aeronomy of 
Ice in Mesosphere (AIM) and Time History of Events and Macroscale 
Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) missions.  The remainder of the 
Explorer request would provide $40.2 million for the Interstellar Boundary 
Explorer, a new program that will map the boundary of the solar system.

Funding requests for other programs within the Earth-Sun System show 
relatively minor changes from FY2006.  Living with a Star, which studies 
the effects of the Sun’s variation on the Earth, would lose $12.9 
million (5%).  Earth-Sun Research, focused on climate prediction, weather, 
and natural hazards, would decrease by $3.7 million (0.4%).  The Earth 
System Science Pathfinder program would gain $19.6 million (14%).  The 
increased funding would provide mission operations funds for CloudSat 
and CALIPSO (both launching in 2006 after a one-year delay) as well as 
development funding for the Orbiting Carbon Observatory and Aquarius. 
Finally, the request includes a minor increase of $0.6 million (2.6%) for 
education and outreach with the Earth-Sun System program.

Additional information is available at

Alert prepared by Jenny Fisher, AGI/AAPG Spring 2006 Intern

Sources: NASA budget documents and the American Institute of Physics


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