Walter C. Oechel

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Walter C. Oechel
Born January 15, 1945
Nationality USA
Spouse(s) Donatella Zona
Scientific career
Fields Ecophysiology, systems ecology, biosphere-atmosphere interaction, and global change.

Walter C. Oechel works in the areas of plant eco-physiology, systems ecology, global change, and biosphere-atmosphere interaction. i At the San Diego State University he is as a Distinguished Professor of Biology, ii as well as at the Open University, UK. iii He is also co-director of the Center for Climate and Sustainability Studies (C2S2) and the director of the Global Change Research Group at SDSU. iv


Oechel has published over 250 papers and his H index is 71. His journal papers have been cited more than 22,000 times. He started his research in eco-physiology with Boyd Strain and WD Billings and moved on to ecosystem studies, global change research, and biosphere-atmosphere interaction. He discovered loss of CO2 from Arctic ecosystems due to global warming ([1]) and limits to CO2 fertilization effects in the Arctic ([2]). With NSF funding, he developed the first university owned and operated EC flux aircraft anywhere in the world, the Sky Arrow 650TCN Environmental Research Aircraft for CO2, H2O, energy and latter CH4.

During the 1980s, Oechel led a team studying global warming at Toolik Lake and Barrow, Alaska to measure the greenhouse gases emitted by high Arctic vegetation, where they found evidence that the ground was emitting more gases than it was absorbing, changing the previous understanding of how the Arctic works in the global climate system. v

In 2009 he released a further study showing that wetlands developing in Alaska emitted even more greenhouse gases than the previously frozen tundra. vi Part of the principle behind these studies is that the Arctic ice had been pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere over the millennia, which was released as ice melted due to global warming. vii He has also shown that the world's oceans add more to the total greenhouse gas emissions than human activity does, adding substantially to global warming issues. viii

The National Science Foundation in 2004 wrote that,

Oechel's extensive work on CO2 on every continent except Antarctica has had important implications for understanding global warming. His efforts impact virtually every aspect of research on climate change and ecosystems science. His use of cutting-edge technology has provided near real-time ecophysiological data on the Web for many K-20classrooms, and he has developed K-12 interactive science education among United States and Mexico border schools.ix

That year he was named a Distinguished Teaching Scholar by the National Science Foundation, receiving the Director's Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars, NSF's highest award for combinative teaching and research excellence. x Later, Oechel and Donatella Zona coinvented an on-demand heating system for atmospheric measuring towers in order for Arctic scientists to take measurements year-round. xi

This system allowed the discovery of large fall emissions in methane loss from the Arctic, especially during the fall “Zero Curtain” period. It also allowed the discovery that upland, non-inundated tundra can be a more active emitter of methane than wet, inundated areas (Zona et al, 2016) changing the perception of the importance of the cold season and upland tundra on annual methane emission balances. Recently, Oechel has been looking at the importance of marine coastal and riverine systems on the global C balance (see e.g.;[3][4]) in Arctic, temperate, and tropical regions.

In 2014, Oechel was named one of the "World's Most Influential Scientific Minds", rated by Thomson Reuters, topping the "agricultural sciences" category. xiiIn 2015, Oechel co-developed a study with Harvard, NASA, and other institutions that showed methane was also being released into the atmosphere during the winter months from the ground of the Arctic than previously believed, increased the amount of presumed greenhouse gases released globally per year. xiii

Oechel has appeared on national news shows discussing the problem of climate change, such as, ABC News xiv and The Washington Post. xv


i [5] ii [6] iii [7] iv [8] v [9] vi [10] vii [11] viii [12] ix [13] x [13] xi [7] xii [5] xiii [14] xiv [15] xv [16]

  1. ^ Oechel et al. 1993 and 2000, Nature
  2. ^ Oechel et al. 1994, Nature
  3. ^ Ikawa and Oechel. 2015
  4. ^ Zulueta et al. 2013
  5. ^ a b "Daily Business Report — July 16, 2014, San Diego Metro Magazine". 16 July 2014. 
  6. ^ Joyce, Ed. "Global Warming Effects Here Now". 
  7. ^ a b "NewsCenter - SDSU - Methane Emissions in Arctic Cold Season Higher Than Expected". 
  8. ^ News, A. B. C. (7 January 2006). "Troubling Signs of Climate Change Seen in Arctic". 
  9. ^ Science, American Association for the Advancement of (11 June 2004). "News this Week". 304 (5677): 1576 – via 
  10. ^ Witze, Alexandra (4 August 2009). "Drowned tundra emits more carbon". doi:10.1038/news.2009.778 – via 
  11. ^ Levy, Sharon (22 March 2011). "Once and Future Giants: What Ice Age Extinctions Tell Us About the Fate of Earth's Largest Animals". Oxford University Press – via Google Books. 
  12. ^ Wohlforth, Charles (4 May 2005). "The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change". Macmillan – via Google Books. 
  13. ^ a b "NSF Names Eight Distinguished Teaching Scholars - NSF - National Science Foundation". 
  14. ^ Service, City News. "San Diego State Study Could Change Global Climate Models". 
  15. ^ News, A. B. C. (27 March 2006). "Is It Too Late to Stop the Warming?". 
  16. ^ "Bad news: Scientists say we could be underestimating Arctic methane emissions".