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Two WHOI Scientists Receive Medals from the American Geophysical Union


December 6, 2011

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientists Henry Dick, a geologist, and Joseph Pedlosky, a physical oceanographer, have been selected to receive two of the American Geophysical Union’s prestigious medals this year. The awards will be given at an honors ceremony on December 7 in San Francisco at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, the largest worldwide conference in the geophysical sciences, attracting nearly 20,000 Earth and space scientists, educators, students, and policy makers.

WHOI Senior Scientist Henry Dick has been selected to be the 2011 American Geophysical Union Harry H. Hess Medalist for “outstanding achievements in research of the constitution and evolution of Earth and other planets.”  Established in 1984, the Hess Medal is named in honor of Harry H. Hess, who made many contributions to geology, mineralogy, and geophysics.

Dick was cited for “his many discoveries, creative efforts and deep insights that have led to the modern understanding of the mantle melting and ocean crust formation along the global ocean ridges.”

Among the many accomplishments that Dick was cited for are: “correctly conclud[ing] the significance of low-angle normal faults in exposing mantle peridotites and lower crust gabbros at slow-spreading ridges – fundamental to the discovery and understanding of oceanic core complexes” and for recognizing “’ultraslow-spreading class of ocean ridges that differ from the familiar fast- and slow-spreading ridges, and offer[ing] new challenges for understanding how ocean ridges work.”  Among his discoveries was that the Earth’s crust is not a continuous shell around the Earth, but that beneath large areas of the Atlantic, Indian and Arctic Oceans, it is absent and the deeper layer of the Earth, the mantle, is exposed directly on the ocean floor.

Dick began work at WHOI as a post-doctoral investigator in 1975, working as part of project FAMOUS, the first international collaboration to explore the Mid-Ocean Ridge. He was hired onto the scientific staff in 1976, and was appointed a senior scientist in 1990. Dick is a fellow of the Geological Society of America and of the American Geophysical Union.

WHOI Scientist Emeritus Joe Pedlosky of the Physical Oceanography department has been selected the 2011 Maurice Ewing Medalist “for significant original contributions to the scientific understanding of the processes in the ocean” and for “outstanding service to the marine sciences.”  Established in 1974 and jointly sponsored with the United States Navy, the Ewing Medal is named in honor of Maurice Ewing, who made significant contributions to deep-sea exploration.

The citation letter accompanying Pedlosky’s nomination states: “He has made fundamental contributions to the theories of ocean circulation and has defined the field of geophysical fluid dynamics.” Among his contributions are “developing the theory for the ventilated thermocline, laying a foundation to the modern dynamics of ocean general circulation.” He is also credited with presenting “the first deductive model of nonlinear baroclinic instability without friction and the first deductive model demonstrating the chaotic behavior of weakly nonlinear instabilities.”  These models help describe how physical forces like wind on the ocean or the uneven heating and cooling of the ocean by the sun can lead to disturbances in, for example, the Gulf Stream or the atmospheric Jet Stream, that bring us our weather or result in eddies and meanders in the ocean. The letter also notes “his passion and devotion to education,” stating Pedlosky “has been a role model for educators through his exceptional lecturing and mentoring abilities.”

Pedlosky first came to WHOI in 1977 as a guest investigator on a Guggenheim fellowship and was appointed a senior scientist in the Physical Oceanography department in 1979. Pedlosky has numerous prestigious awards and memberships, including the Meisinger Award and Sverdrup Gold Medal of American Meteorological Society, fellow of the American Geophysical Union, member of National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Foreign Member of Earth & Cosmic Sciences Section of Academia Europaea.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent organization in Falmouth, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment.