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California Oceanographer to Receive WHOI’s Stommel Medal

March 21, 2000

Dr. Russ E. Davis of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego will receive the Henry Stommel Medal in Oceanography from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in recognition of his contributions to observing and understanding ocean processes. The Stommel award, a gold medal and monetary prize, will be presented at an award lecture and ceremony in June in Woods Hole.

Davis is being honored for the development, deployment and successful use of the Autonomous Lagrangian Circulation Explorer (ALACE) float and some of its profiling derivatives.  The floats were used in almost every part of the world ocean during the World Ocean Circulation Experiment during the 1990s and are one of the principal tools for new programs planned as part of the Global Ocean Observing System.

Russ Davis has made many contributions to observing and understanding ocean processes, WHOI Director Robert B. Gagosian said in announcing the award recipient.  He has worked tirelessly to develop better observational tools and the methods to best use them to sample the ocean.  He not only makes and analyzes ocean observations, but works on behalf of the ocean sciences research community to ensure funding for observational oceanography.  Henry Stommel would be very proud and pleased to know that, with considerable help from Russ Davis’s  instruments and methods, his dream of the live atlas of the oceans is becoming a reality.

Davis has been Professor of Oceanography at Scripps since 1977.  His research focuses on the ocean’s role in climate, upper ocean processes, ocean instrumentation and current observations.  He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society.

The Stommel Medal was established by the WHOI Trustees in January 1993 in honor of WHOI oceanographer Henry Melson Stommel, who died in 1991 at age 71.  Stommel was a world-renowned physical oceanographer who made many contributions to nearly every area of physical oceanography and is credited with establishing the modern concepts of ocean circulation.  Stommel was highly regarded by his colleagues for his sense of humor, his zest for life, his generosity, and his inspiration to legions of oceanographers.

The Henry Melson Stommel Medal in Oceanography is to be awarded to individuals who have fundamental and enduring contributions to observing and understanding ocean processes.  In keeping with the spirit of Henry Stommel’s scientific interests,  special consideration will be given to contributions rooted in oceanographic observations.  According to the award criteria, the scientific work honored by the medal may consist of a specific achievement or an accumulative series of contributions. The Selection Committee will be a small group appointed by the Director from the senior staff of the Institution. In general, the selection committee will solicit recommendations from the international oceanographic community.

Russ Davis has played a major role in observing the world oceans, WHOI Senior Associate Director and Director of Research James Luyten said.  He continues to contribute to the community by developing new and improved observational tools like the ALACE and PALACE floats, and he has played a key role in developing instruments commonly used in physical oceanography today, among them the acoustic doppler profilers, current meters, and Lagrangian floats.  He has also developed new statistical and analytical tools to better understand the physics of the upper ocean and the coupling of the ocean and atmosphere.  The impact of these instruments and analytical tools in improving our knowledge of the general circulation of the ocean has been immense.

In addition to the award lecture in June, Dr. Davis will give several seminars and meet with the Institution’s graduate students during his stay in Woods Hole.

The first recipient of the Stommel Medal was British oceanographer Dr. John C. Swallow, who received the award in February 1994.  Dr. Swallow is perhaps best known in the ocean science community for the invention and development of the neutrally buoyant float, called the Swallow float, in the 1950s and its applications to deep-water circulation studies.  He used the float to identify the Deep Western Boundary Current off New England that had been predicted by Henry Stommel, then went on to search for the predicted slow poleward return flow in the ocean interior.


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