Gentine Receives 2017 Global Environmental Change Early Career Award


Pierre Gentine is one of the most thoughtful and intellectually stimulating scientists to start a career in the Earth sciences. His training in applied mathematics and physics allows him to bring new perspectives to challenging theoretical and practical problems at the interface between hydrology, meteorology, and ecology that define the dynamics of the global hydrological cycle. It is remarkable that in a very short time he has been able to conjure up new insights on long-standing problems, such as the nature of vegetation adaptation that leads to the empirical observations that support the Budyko curve, and has also developed a formal theoretical framework for convection, linking cloud dynamics, evaporation, and other surface and boundary layer processes. Together these lines of inquiry, blending physics and appropriate statistical methods, address major sources of uncertainty in the future of Earth’s climate. Though young, he is a leader and a role model in this area, demonstrating the best of the scientific method: Take a complex problem, understand the key aspects of the observational evidence in a theoretical framework, and then develop an appropriate, simple, and elegant theoretical representation of the processes that provides insight into the phenomenon at a fundamental level. He is very worthy of recognition through the Global Environmental Change Award, the first of many that I am sure he will garner.

—Upmanu Lall, Columbia University, New York


Dear Manu,

Thank you for the kind word. I am truly humbled and honored to receive such an award.

I started my academic career as a hydrologist. I had the luck and fortune to be exposed to other fields during my academic journey.

During my Ph.D., I was hosted by the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique. They introduced me to the magic and complexity of moist convection and clouds. It opened a Pandora’s box and an excitement that have never stopped since then. In parallel, I was puzzled by the role of vegetation in regulating the continental water cycle and decided to try and understand how vegetation was functioning.

While learning (and trying to publish some papers!), I was lucky to meet some giants who would be willing to listen to young people: Dara, Manu, Alan Betts, and Joe Berry. I will always remember Alan taking the time to have lunch with me 1 year out of grad school after I had mentioned I had an idea for a new convective parameterization. The stories of Joe from the molecular scale to superparameterization in the Amazon evenings were simply an enchantment.

An award is never a single-person effort, and I sincerely thank all the fantastic people with whom I have collaborated: Adam, Fabio, Kirsten, Ben, Bert, Sonia, Guido, Maria…and my wonderful postdocs and students.

I would like to thank my wife and three children for their constant support. Their smiles always place things in perspective. Looking at my children motivates me to try and understand what our future climate will look like.

Finally, I would like to dedicate this to the memory of my dad, who died during the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting. He was a doctor, a scientist, and a cheerful, honest, and humble individual. I hope I transmit some of his values to my group and colleagues.

—Pierre Gentine, Columbia University, New York