NCAR scientists receive major honors

Top AGU awards for NCAR

August 1, 2013

BOULDER—The American Geophysical Union (AGU) announced this week that it is granting top honors to two senior scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

NCAR’s Raymond Roble has been awarded the William Bowie Medal, AGU’s highest honor, for his pioneering research into Earth’s upper atmosphere. NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth is receiving the prestigious Climate Communication Prize for his dedication and skill at communicating climate change to broad audiences.

Both awards will be formally bestowed at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting in December, held in San Francisco.

The American Geophysical Union, with 62,000 members from 144 countries, is one of the world’s leading scientific organizations.

“We are deeply grateful that NCAR’s groundbreaking work is receiving such a high level of international recognition,” says Thomas Bogdan, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, which manages NCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation (NSF). “Basic research into the atmosphere, as well as the communication of scientific results, provide critical benefits for society.”

William Bowie Medal

Raymond Roble
Raymond Roble. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

The Bowie Medal, established in 1939 in honor of AGU’s founding president, is awarded to individuals for outstanding contributions to fundamental geophysics and for unselfish cooperation in research.

Roble has been a leader in the development of computer models that simulate the interrelationships among the outer atmospheric regions known as the thermosphere, ionosphere, and mesosphere. These models have been used to analyze data gathered from many NSF observing programs and NASA satellites, and they have been adapted to study the upper atmospheres of other planets, including Venus, Mars, and Jupiter.

Roble led the first analyses of the potential effects of human-produced greenhouse gases on the upper atmosphere, which were later confirmed by observations of the effects of atmospheric drag on satellite orbits. He also produced the first three-dimensional model of the global electric circuit, which revealed the electrical interactions between upper and lower atmosphere driven by thunderstorms.

Roble has been a senior scientist in NCAR’s High Altitude Observatory since 1984. His work is primarily funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is NCAR’s sponsor, as well as by NASA.

Climate Communication Prize

Kevin Trenberth
Kevin Trenberth. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

Trenberth is the third recipient of the AGU Climate Communication Prize, established in 2011. It honors AGU member scientists for their work in communicating climate science to broad audiences.

The prize recognizes Trenberth’s longstanding work in explaining climate to the media and public, and his dedication to education and outreach. Trenberth, a senior scientist in NCAR’s Earth System Laboratory since 1986 and an internationally recognized climate expert, has given numerous talks for public audiences about climate change and its potential consequences. He is frequently quoted in television and radio broadcasts and newspaper articles. In addition, Trenberth has testified before Congress about climate change and discussed the issue with leading policy makers.

A participant in many national and international research committees, Trenberth was a lead author in the last three major assessments from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). His recent work has emphasized changes in the global cycles of energy and water, including the role of oceans in storing heat trapped by human-produced greenhouse gases.

Much of his research is funded by the NSF.

AGU Fellows

Two other senior scientists from NCAR’s Earth System Laboratory have been named AGU Fellows: Gordon Bonan and Warren Washington.

Bonan focuses on critical interactions between the land surface and Earth’s climate system. Washington is a pioneer of global climate models that have enabled scientists to simulate Earth’s climate system.

AGU Fellows are recognized for attaining acknowledged eminence in the Earth and space sciences. In any given year, fewer than 1 out of 1,000 AGU members receives the designation.


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The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.