Milly Receives 2013 Hydrologic Sciences Award

P. C. D. “Chris” Milly received the 2013 Hydrologic Sciences Award at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for outstanding contributions to the science of hydrology.


milly_p-chris-dIt is with great pleasure that I introduce to you the 2013 Hydrological Sciences Award winner, Dr. Chris Milly. Chris is being honored “for fundamental contributions to our understanding of the connections between land surface processes and hydroclimatic variability.” Through Chris’s work, the world has a better understanding of how the Earth’s energy and water cycles interact at the large scale to determine hydrological quantities, such as streamflow, of fundamental interest to society. He is eminently deserving of this award.

After he earned his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) under Peter Eagleson, Chris moved to Princeton, where he established himself, as a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) employee, as the resident hydrologist at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). There he contributes to GFDL’s overall scientific productivity by leading the development of the GFDL land model. Of course, while there, he also performs his own basic and vital hydroclimatic research. Chris’s recent work on climate stationarity in water resources management planning has challenged established paradigms—appropriately so—and his work on runoff in a changing climate garnered him media attention and even a presentation to Congress. His research papers indeed address a wide range of topics, more than I can outline here. Let me just say that he has a wonderful way of looking at problems: Use simpler models first to understand the mechanisms behind a physical phenomenon and only then add complexity to the models to fine-tune the understanding. While the appropriateness and overall elegance of this approach is lost on many scientists, with Chris, it is second nature.

On a personal note, I can say sincerely that Chris, by example, has strongly influenced my own approach to tackling scientific problems. I can only assume he’s had a similar impact on others.

Please join me now in congratulating P. Christopher D. Milly, the 2013 recipient of AGU’s Hydrologic Sciences Award.

—RANDAL D. KOSTER, NASA, Greenbelt, Md.


Thanks so much, Randy, for your generous comments!

I accept this award on behalf of all the people I’ve had the plain dumb luck to fall in with over the last 40 years. I was lucky to be raised in a family that valued education and that even knew something about mass transfer at the soil-atmosphere interface. I was lucky to study under two great water-resource faculties, at Princeton and MIT, and to have Pete Eagleson as my mentor.

I was lucky to be given a shot at a career in academia at Princeton. And, quite honestly, I was lucky that the university somehow saw I was not thriving there and encouraged me to explore other options. At that point, I also was lucky that I had spent a couple undergraduate summers working for John Bredehoeft at USGS and that Roger Wolff had subsequently kept the USGS in touch with me because that set the stage for what was next. As luck would have it, Marshall Moss at USGS and Jerry Mahlman at NOAA’s GFDL had the vision to write a memorandum of understanding between their organizations, under which a USGS hydrologist would be stationed at GFDL to work on hydrology in climate models. Luckily, I was in the proverbial right place at the right time, and both institutions took a long-term risk on me. I was lucky to receive the support of Suki Manabe when I arrived at GFDL, and I was very lucky to hire Krista Dunne to support all my research efforts ever since.

I could also tell many lucky tales of coauthors and colleague reviewers, but my time is up.

I was very moved to learn of this award. My sincere thanks goes to my nominators, to the Hydrologic Sciences Award Committee, and to my professional family—the AGU Hydrology section. Thank you all!

—P. C. D. “CHRIS” MILLY, U.S. Geological Survey, Princeton, N.J.