Scripps Scientists Take Top Honors from American Geophysical Union


Several researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, have received accolades from the American Geophysical Union (AGU), a not-for-profit, professional, scientific organization representing more than 60,000 members in 139 countries.

The honorees include pioneering research oceanographer Russ Davis, who will receive the AGU’s Maurice Ewing Medal. Climate scientist and author Richard Somerville will receive AGU’s Climate Communications Prize. In addition, oceanographers Robert Pinkel and Sarah Gille will be named AGU Fellows, joining only 55 members of the organization to receive the designation this year.

“These honors recognize the highest career achievements in ocean and climate science,” said Scripps Director and AGU President Margaret Leinen. “I am delighted that AGU has chosen these researchers for these distinctions and I am honored to call them my colleagues.”

The Maurice Ewing Medal is given for “significant original contributions in the ocean sciences” and is one of only 10 medals given by AGU each year to honor one of its 60,000+ members. The Ewing Medal was first given in 1974 to Scripps Oceanography geophysicist Walter Munk. Davis joins a distinguished set of Scripps Oceanography faculty and researchers who have received the medal since then including Fred Spiess, Wolf Berger, Dave Keeling, John Orcutt, Charles Cox, Joe Reid, and Miriam Kastner.

Davis has been associated with Scripps Institution of Oceanography since 1967. A physical oceanographer, Davis studies the ocean’s role in climate and upper-ocean dynamics in the Climate, Atmospheric Science, and Physical Oceanography division. His work developing oceanographic floats led to the creation of the Argo network, an array of nearly 3,900 profilers distributed throughout the world’s oceans that have provided the most comprehensive record of fundamental ocean conditions in history.

Davis became an assistant research geophysicist at the San Diego branch of the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps and in 1968 was appointed to the Scripps faculty as an assistant professor of oceanography. He was a full professor from 1977 until 2000.

Richard Somerville will receive the AGU’s Climate Communication Prize. This prize, one of only two AGU prizes, has been given since 2011 to a scientist (as opposed to someone whose primary occupation is communication) in recognition of outstanding communication of science to the public in addition to the science community.

Somerville is Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor at Scripps. He is a theoretical meteorologist and an expert on computer simulations of the atmosphere. He has been a professor at Scripps since 1979.

Somerville has received awards from the American Meteorological Society for both his research and his popular book, The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change, a new edition of which was published in 2008.

Pinkel is a professor of oceanography and associate director of the Marine Physical Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He has played a central role in the development of acoustical oceanography through his pioneering contributions to acoustical Doppler methods for oceanographic measurement and his subsequent use of Doppler techniques for the study of internal waves, mixing, and related processes in the upper ocean.

Pinkel also leads the Ocean Physics Group at Scripps. The group designs and deploys unique instruments to study ocean dynamics.

Gille is a professor in the Climate, Atmospheric Sciences, and Physical Oceanography division at Scripps. Her research focuses on ocean dynamics and their role in Earth’s climate system, primarily in the Southern Ocean. She makes use of a combination of remote-sensing data, in situ observations, numerical model output, and theoretical ideas.

In describing the fellowship, AGU states that “nominated fellows must have attained acknowledged eminence in the Earth and space sciences. Primary criteria for evaluation in scientific eminence are major breakthrough/discovery and paradigm shift. This designation is conferred upon not more than 0.1 percent of all AGU members in any given year. New fellows are chosen by a Committee of Fellows.”

AGU will bestow the honors on the Scripps researchers at the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco in December.

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