Daniel Schrag, 33
Recent droughts and floods have raised concerns about global warming, El Niño, and their impact on our planet. To predict future weather requires improved understanding of climatic variability over time, and of the role of technology in changing the climate. To get there we need better methods for measuring how Earth’s climate has changed over geological time. A leader in that effort is Daniel Schrag, who calls himself a "geochemical oceanographer."
Schrag has shown tremendous technological ingenuity by devising methods for collecting massive amounts of geochemical data and analyzing it cheaply and accurately. "For one-third the cost, we can do 100 times as many analyses about 10 times more precisely," says Schrag of one of his methods. Using this and other techniques, he measured the temperature and composition of the ocean during the last ice age, and extracted information from corals on how Pacific Ocean dynamics have changed over time. Such information has, among other things, produced insights into the recent strong and frequent El Niño events.
Our future could depend on our ability to understand the impact of technology on the environment. Schrag will likely be a leader in inventing techniques to promote that understanding.