McManus Receives 2016 Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology Dansgaard Award

Jerry McManus will receive the Dansgaard Award at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 12–16 December in San Francisco, Calif., as selected by a Dansgaard Award selection committee. The award is given in recognition of the awardee’s research impact, innovative interdisciplinary work, educational accomplishments (mentoring), societal impact, and other relevant contributions and to acknowledge that the awardee shows exceptional promise for continued leadership in paleoceanography or paleoclimatology.


In the almost two decades since he received his Ph.D., Jerry McManus has led a global effort to understand the influence of past climate change on the world’s oceans. Of exceptional quality and quantity, Jerry’s research is essentially the marine complement of Willi Dansgaard’s groundbreaking work on ice cores, making Jerry truly an apt candidate for this particular award. Jerry has had an enormous influence on the field of paleoclimatology and paleoceanography, and his insights into the mechanisms of natural climate variability on orbital to millennial timescales are of great relevance to the understanding of current anthropogenic climate change.

Early in his career, Jerry used high-resolution geochemical and sedimentological data from the North Atlantic to show how the oceanography and circulation of this region were linked to atmospheric changes observed in ice cores. A powerful series of papers documented the behavior of North Atlantic sea surface temperatures as well as the pattern of iceberg and freshwater delivery to the region. Then, using an innovative application of the Protactinium/Thorium method, he published the first continuous record of deepwater export from the North Atlantic showing that major cooling events such as the Younger Dryas and Heinrich Event 1 were accompanied by a reduction in deepwater export out of the North Atlantic, confirming the links between climate variability at high latitudes and thermohaline circulation. Most recently, he and his students have published groundbreaking papers on Arctic and Atlantic Ocean circulation, migration of the inter-tropical convergence zone/tropical rain belts, and the role of iron fertilization in climate change.

Jerry McManus also has an impressive record of scientific collaboration and international leadership as well as mentorship of junior scientists, including advising over 20 graduate students and postdoctoral scientists. At Columbia University, Jerry has been recognized for his dedication to teaching, including Columbia University Best Faculty Teaching Awards at both the graduate and undergraduate level. In summary, Jerry has made seminal contributions to the study of the abrupt climatic changes that occurred during glacial periods, and he is a leading figure and international authority on the subjects of Heinrich/D-O events, Atlantic thermohaline circulation in the past, and interglacial climates. He is a widely sought after speaker and has an outstanding record of mentorship, teaching, and student training. I cannot think of a more perfect person to be awarded the Willi Dansgaard Award of the AGU.

—Maureen Raymo, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, N.Y.


Thank you to Mo Raymo for her support and gracious comments, and to the AGU Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology focus group award committee for this selection. I am honored to be considered, although I cannot think of a less perfect person to be awarded the AGU Dansgaard Award. It is certainly thrilling to join the search for climatic insights from clues in the past, yet it is humbling to be well aware of the excellent caliber of my many colleagues and even to be mentioned alongside that namesake pioneer of paleoenvironmental reconstructions.

Paleoceanography and paleoclimatology can be frustrating fields, limited by the quality and quantity of available archives, the persistent inverse problem and the nonunique nature of proxy reconstructions. Yet, they are at the same time truly exciting fields, offering and demonstrating the potential to yield crucial insights into the workings of the climate system and its various components. Past climate explorations are sufficiently established for many important questions to emerge, yet are recent enough in development to allow substantial, fundamental discoveries by even the newest of researchers. For my part, I have had the spectacular good fortune to be guided by inspiring mentors at LDEO and WHOI, to work alongside many brilliant colleagues around the world, and to play a supporting role in the efforts of extraordinary students and postdoctoral investigators. All of these interactions keep me going, amid the exciting realization that we are making real progress and important contributions, step by step, toward a better understanding of the natural world and the place of human beings within it. I look forward to the many great things that will continue to come from the fields of paleoceanography and paleoclimatology.

—Jerry McManus, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, N.Y.