Hewitt Receives 2014 Cryosphere Early Career Award

Ian Hewitt received the 2014 Cryosphere Early Career Award at the 2014 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, held 15–19 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for “a significant contribution to cryospheric science and technology.”


Hewitt_Ian-Cryosphere_Early_Career_Award_SIZEDDespite his young age, Ian Hewitt is one of the most impressive theoretical glaciologists active today. His work has focused on the interplay between subglacial drainage and ice flow dynamics, a topic that has attracted much attention inside and outside of our discipline ever since the velocity of the Greenland Ice Sheet was observed to speed up in response to surface melting. Evolving channelized drainage systems are key to understanding how more melt is likely to affect ice flow in future. As part of his Ph.D., Ian constructed, to my knowledge, the first mathematical model for how channels interact in two dimensions, setting the stage for a new generation of subglacial hydrology models currently being implemented more widely.

This was followed up with work explaining the physics behind melt-driven velocity changes in ice sheets, complementing the large body of observational work generated by many researchers over the last decade. The novelty of this work lies not only in the sophistication of its drainage model but in finally providing a fully coupled ice flow-drainage modeling framework.

Like many successful theoreticians, Ian’s background lies outside of glaciology, in his case modeling magma migration in the Earth’s mantle and applied mathematics more generally. The culture of applied mathematics does not often lend itself to an easy knowledge transfer between modeling and application, but Ian seems not only to know instinctively how to communicate his own results to the wider glaciological community but also to have as good a grasp of the realities of many areas of glaciology—especially field work and operational numerical modeling—as any theoretician. In fact, he was one of the best field assistants I have ever taken on a glacier.

I cannot think of a more deserving candidate for the Cryosphere Early Career Award at the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

—Christian Schoof, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada



I am extremely grateful to the Cryosphere focus group for selecting me for this award. To say it was a surprise is a great understatement, but it is no less of an honor for that. I can think of many colleagues who I feel are more deserving of this recognition, and that makes me all the more touched to have been chosen. I take the award as encouragement and motivation to continue my work and endeavor to live up to it.

As a mathematician by training, I am particularly honored to have been recognized by AGU. Since starting to research theoretical aspects of glaciers during my Ph.D., I have been constantly inspired by the opportunity to discover and wonder at these amazing forces of nature. The science is unerringly fascinating and challenging, and I feel privileged to have the chance to try and help advance it.

As much as the science itself, I have been constantly uplifted by the opportunity to meet and work with fantastic colleagues. I have found the crysopheric community to be just that—a community—and it has a spirit of shared inquiry which I think sets it apart from other branches of science. It is this lively sense of community which makes glaciology—for me—uniquely fulfilling.

I would like to extend special thanks to those I have worked closely with and those who wrote supporting letters for this award. I would like to highlight my thesis supervisor, Andrew Fowler, who pointed me in the direction of the Alps to begin with; lecturers and fellow students at the Karthaus summer school, who got me hooked on ice; and Christian Schoof, Mauro Werder, and Gwenn Flowers for widening my horizons and for providing constant ideas, support and inspiration.

Thank you!

—Ian Hewitt, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK