Top American Meteorological Society Honors for Two Scripps Researchers


The American Meteorological Society (AMS) bestowed two of its most prestigious awards on two innovative Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, researchers.

Physical oceanographer Lynne Talley, one of the world’s leading experts on ocean circulation, received the Henry Stommel Research Award “for exceptional contributions to understanding the genesis, distribution, and fate of mode and intermediate waters, and their importance in global heat and freshwater transport.”

The Stommel Award is named for Henry Stommel, who is considered among the leading physical oceanographers of all time. Stommel was affiliated with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he worked until his death in 1992. Scripps physical oceanographers Rob Pinkel and Larry Armi received the award in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Talley received bachelor’s degrees in physics and piano performance in 1976 from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. She received a PhD in physical oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology–Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1982. She joined Scripps as an assistant researcher in 1984, becoming a professor the following year.

Talley has done research that combines analysis of ocean observations with advanced theoretical work to describe and map large-scale circulation. She was a lead author of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report Working Group I chapter “Observations: Oceanic Climate Change and Sea Level,” which was released in February 2007. The report earned contributing scientists a share of the Nobel Peace Prize later that year.

“I am deeply honored,” said Talley. “Stommel was one of my biggest heroes with his unflinching focus on understanding how the ocean works.”

Climate modeling expert Shang-Ping Xie, whose research has uncovered the increasing strength of Pacific typhoons and the true nature of an apparent hiatus in the pace of global warming, received the 2017 Sverdrup Gold Medal Award “for fundamental contributions to understanding the coupled ocean-atmosphere feedback processes involved in climate variability and climate change.

The Sverdrup Medal is named for famed Scripps Director Harald Sverdrup, who led the institution from 1936 to 1948. Sverdrup is best known for his assistance to the Allied war effort during World War II, for his pioneering research into ocean circulation and tidal processes and for co-authoring what is considered the first textbook of oceanography, The Oceans: Their Physics, Chemistry and General Biology. Previous recipients of the Sverdrup Award include Scripps scientists Walter Munk, Jerome Namias, Tim Barnett, Dean Roemmich, and Ken Melville.

Born in Quzhou, China in 1963, Xie received a bachelor of science degree in 1984 from the Ocean University of China in Qingdao. He received his master’s degree and doctorate in physical oceanography from Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan.

In 2012, he joined Scripps and was named the first Roger Revelle Chair in Environmental Science at Scripps Oceanography. His work focuses on ocean-atmosphere interactions and their role in climate formation, variability, and change. His recent studies have created breakthroughs in scientists’ ability to track global warming in real time and in uncovering evidence that a supposed slowing of climate change since the late 1990s might not have taken place.

Xie also will join the 2017 class of AMS fellows this year.

“When I started graduate school in the 1980s, ocean-atmospheric coupling was a revolutionary idea that emerged from studying El Niño,” said Xie. “I was among the first generation of graduate students who wrote theses in this emerging area of research, inspired by scientific pioneers who have been honored with this award.”

The presentation of the awards will take place at the 97th Annual Meeting of the Society in Seattle in January 2017.

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