UC San Diego Awards Emeriti Professorship to Veteran Scripps Climate Researcher


UC San Diego has awarded the Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship to Richard C. J. Somerville, a distinguished professor emeritus and research professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. This professorship carries a $10,000 prize.

UCSD awards one Dickson Emeriti Professorship each year to a retired UCSD professor, to support the continued service of the awardee, broadly defined, including contributions to student or faculty development at UCSD, and to community outreach. After formally retiring in 2007, Somerville has remained active in research and in supporting and advising UC San Diego graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.  His most recent advisee was Gabriel Kooperman, who received his Ph.D. earlier this year. Somerville also recently presented lectures in a massive open online course (MOOC) offered by UC San Diego called “Climate Change in Four Dimensions.”

“I am honored to receive this award” said Somerville, “and I will use the money to continue to do science in retirement.”

Somerville joined the Scripps faculty as a full professor in 1979. He was the first professor of atmospheric sciences at Scripps. His main research is on the physics of clouds and their role in the climate system. His interests include all aspects of climate, including communication of climate science and the interface between the science of climate change and public policy.

Richard Somerville received a B.S. in meteorology from Pennsylvania State University in 1961 and a Ph.D. in meteorology from New York University in 1966. After three temporary postdoctoral positions, and prior to joining Scripps, he held research positions in the 1970s at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. He was also an adjunct professor at Columbia University and New York University.

Somerville received the Louis J. Battan Author's Award in 2000 from the American Meteorological Society (AMS) for his popular book, The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change.  This book originally appeared in 1996, published by the University of California Press. The AMS published a thoroughly revised second edition of this book in 2008.

Among many other honors, Somerville is a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Meteorological Society. He was a coordinating lead author for the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which appeared in 2007. The IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize equally with Al Gore.

The award is named for Edward A. Dickson, who was a Regent of the University of California (UC) for 43 years, from 1913 to 1956, the year he died.  This is the longest tenure of any regent in the history of UC.  In 1955, Dickson presented the university with an endowment to support and maintain special annual professorships to be awarded to retired UC faculty members. Now each UC campus chooses one emeritus professor each year as a Dickson Emeriti Professor and makes an award of $10,000 to her or him.  

The endowment is described as being "for the support and maintenance of special annual Professorships in the University of California to which shall be appointed by the President, with approval of The Regents, persons of academic rank who have been retired after service in the University of California and who shall receive such awards in addition to their retirement or pension allowances.”

Dickson was a UC Berkeley graduate who became a leading Los Angeles newspaper editor/publisher and played a major role in founding UCLA.

Richard Somerville’s web site, http://richardsomerville.com, has more information about him.

– Robert Monroe

Sign Up For
Explorations Now

explorations now is the free award-winning digital science magazine from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Join subscribers from around the world and keep up on our cutting-edge research.