It doesn't get much better than this.

Susan Solomon, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lab in Boulder, Colo., has won the 2004 Blue Planet Prize, awarded by a Japanese foundation and worth about $460,000.

Solomon won the prize last month for her pioneering work in identifying the cause of the Antarctic Ozone Hole, an unexpected phenomenon that began several decades ago. Solomon suggested that chemical reactions involving man-made chlorine interacting with icy clouds in the polar stratosphere could be responsible for destroying ozone.

She was nominated for the prize by her peers, which, she said, "makes the honor very special. You get the sense that your colleagues think you have done something."

Solomon, who said she wanted to be a scientist since age 10, has worked for the government since 1981. She joined NOAA's Aeronomy Laboratory in Boulder after getting her doctorate in chemistry "because there were more outstanding scientists per square foot in that building than anywhere else in the world."

The Boulder staff members, she said, "have a wonderful mission. . . . I really think it serves the public. The public needs to understand about the environment. . . . We should know what is going on -- we should go into everything with a full knowledge."

As part of her research, Solomon led two U.S. expeditions to Antarctica in 1986 and 1987 to obtain evidence for her theory.

The Blue Planet Prize, sponsored by Japan's Asahi Glass Foundation, recognizes individuals and organizations making major contributions to solving global environmental problems.

Solomon is the second NOAA scientist to receive the award, the agency said. In 1992, Syukuro Manabe, who works in its geophysical fluid dynamics lab in Princeton, N.J., won the prize for research on how to predict climate change.

Party Time

Feds in the hinterlands often joke about how little it takes -- snow or traffic -- to close government offices in Washington.

But this summer, federal employees in New York City and Boston will get a sense of the disruption that big events cause these days. In their case, the workplace disruptions will be caused by the national political conventions (Democrats start July 26; Republicans begin Aug. 30.).

More than likely, many of those employees will be working from home during the conventions. In a recent memo to agency heads, Kay Coles James, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, suggested agencies encourage telecommuting, flexible work hours and the use of vacation time to help ease traffic congestion and security concerns in the two cities.

Agency heads, she wrote, should prepare "for possible disruptions in traffic and commuting patterns as a result of security precautions. Reducing the number of federal employees traveling to or through restricted areas will also assist those agencies charged with providing security for the conventions."

Retirements

Illana D. Banks, a marketing analyst at the Defense Technical Information Center at Fort Belvoir, retired June 26 after 39 years of federal service.

Jim Joyner, director of the division of resource management for Region 1 of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, retired last month. Joyner began working for the NRC's predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, in 1962.

Colin Klett, a program director for the Internal Revenue Service, retired Friday after 34 years with the IRS. He also served three years as a communications officer in the Marine Corps, which included duty in Vietnam.

Benita Myers, taxpayer education and communication territory manager at the IRS, will retire Aug. 1 after 31 years of federal service.

Ray Samuelson, senior operations adviser in the IRS small-business/self-employed division, office of communications, retired Saturday after more than 30 years of federal service.

Tim Hurd, chief of media relations for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, retired Friday after 37 years of federal service.

Art Hylton, taxpayer education and communication area director at the IRS, retired May 1 after 37 years of federal service.

William Reckert, a medical records transcriber in the federal torts branch of the Justice Department, retired March 31 after 53 years of federal service.

Robert C. Stokes Jr., taxpayer education and communication territory manager at the IRS, retired Thursday after 35 years of federal service.

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com