Ralph J. Cicerone passed away on Saturday, November 5, at his New Jersey home. He was the fourth chancellor of UC Irvine, a distinguished atmospheric scientist, and ex-president of the National Academy of Sciences. The reason of death has not been released yet, but reports said he died unexpectedly.
Cicerone was well known for pioneering a research work which showed that organic compounds called chlorofluorocarbons, methane and other trace gasses were on track to surpass carbon dioxide as the main greenhouse gasses which drive global warming. He helped in founding UCI's school of Department of Earth System Science.
Kenneth C. Janda, physical sciences dean, said "Ralph played a central role in moving the School of Physical Sciences and UCI to a premier position as a top research university. His design for the Earth system science department was unique and well ahead of its time, bringing together top scientists from engineering, physics and chemistry to study a problem of crucial importance to humanity: climate change."
On top of establishing several studies that helped define the causes, effects and extent of global climate change, Cicerone also helped in creating $500 million Gulf Research Program to enhance oil system safety after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, in which millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico and 11 oil crewmen died following a massive blowout and explosions.
He has had numerous meetings with the Congress about the importance of science education. "Crucial political decisions about scientific matters, involving subjects such as the environment, cannot be judged by voters who have no understanding of what constitutes scientific evidence or the scientific method. Study after study has shown that we have a scientifically illiterate public -- one that doesn't understand the nature of risk, the meaning of statistics or even why summer is hotter than winter," he said in 2003.
Ralph Cicerone is survived by his wife, UC Irvine professor emerita of cognitive sciences, Carol, their daughter, Sara, and grandchildren, Zoe and Ari.