Shuttleworth Receives 2001 Hydrology Section Award

W. James Shuttleworth received the Hydrology Section Award at the 2001 Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California, last December. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the science of hydrology.


shuttleworth_wjamesIt is a great pleasure to introduce the winner of the 2001 AGU Hydrology Award, W. James Shuttleworth. Two events in Jim’s professional career have greatly benefitted the hydrology community, U.S. hydrology in particular. The first was Jim’s early decision to change his career pathway from high-energy physics to hydrology. It may not be well known among most hydrologists (who tend not to be avid readers of journals like Nuclear Physics, Nuovo Cimento Letters, and Physical Review Letters) that Jim’s first 10 papers appeared in these journals, with titles like ‘Coincident pi-zero electroproduction in the second resonance region.’ In the early 1970s, Jim decided that representing moisture and energy exchange from forest canopies posed a more challenging set of problems, and took a position at the (then) Institute of Hydrology in Wallingford, U.K. The second important event was Jim’s 1993 move from IH, his professional home for over 20 years, to the University of Arizona.

Jim is best known for theoretical developments in evapotranspiration modeling. His 1984 paper with IH colleague Jim Wallace, ‘Evaporation from sparse crops—An energy combination theory,’ now forms the basic evapotranspiration parameterization used in many soil vegetation atmosphere transfer schemes. He was the obvious candidate to write the chapter ‘Evaporation’ in Maidment’s Handbook of Hydrology, arguably the most widely read reference on the subject. Jim’s work on evapotranspiration represents a unique marriage of instrument development (the Hydra instrument, developed with colleagues at IH, provided the first capability for measurement of evapotranspiration from forest canopies over long periods, and was the predecessor of the eddy correlation systems now widely used for this purpose). The measurements performed by Jim and his IH colleagues of the energy canopy energy balance of tropical forest canopies (e.g., the ARME program in Amazonia) led to the era of large-scale field experiments, the vision for which was outlined in his 1988 Journal of Hydrology paper, ‘Macrohydrology, the new challenge for process hydrology’).

Beyond these particular accomplishments, Jim has given selflessly to the field through his involvement in international science. He has served on numerous steering committees, advisory boards, and other planning instruments of organizations like WCRP/GEWEX, IGBP, and UNESCO/HELP that have been critical to the evolution of the field of continental and global hydrology. From my personal experience in these settings, Jim has always been a strong promoter of interests of the hydrologic community, but never unreasonably so; his has always been the voice of reason, and his counsel is sought both by hydrologists and by the broader Earth science community.

The citation for the 2001 Hydrology Award reads, for ‘Outstanding contribution(s) to the science of hydrology.’ Thank you, Jim; this is indeed a most well-deserved award.

Dennis Lettenmaier, University of Washington, Seattle, USA


Mr. President, Professor Lettenmaier, members of the Awards Committee, Hydrology Section members, friends, thank you! Most sincerely, thank you for this award. When I read the list of previous recipients, I am awed by the outstanding hydrologists who have received it, all of whom I respect and some of whom I am proud to call friends. Several of them are here tonight.

Life, they say, is a journey, with departures and arrivals, sometimes winding and rough, sometimes straight and clear. Within my own life’s journey, I consider receiving this year’s AGU Hydrology Section Award as an arrival. Almost a decade ago, I uprooted my family from the country where I had spent most of my career to join the hydrological community in the United States. There is always apprehension when one makes such a move, but from the very first day, I was made welcome, and tonight, receiving this award, I once again feel the warmth of my acceptance in the inclusive country that is my adopted home.

As we walk through life, we meet fellow travelers who share some of the journey with us. I’d like to remember a few of mine tonight. Some people are fortunate enough to meet their very best friends early. I am lucky. I met my best friend, Hazel, my wife, at the start of my journey. She has walked beside me ever since, encouraging me when I needed to be bold, advising me when I needed to be careful, leading when appropriate, and always being supportive. Hazel shares this award with me.

I belong to a privileged generation of hydrologists. When I joined this discipline, it was a facet of geography, or geology, or engineering, depending on the country. During my lifetime, it has grown to become the core of Earth system science. The need for hydrological understanding pervades every other Earth-related discipline. My fellow travelers reflect this diversity and the growth in the subject we all love.

Initially, coming from the very different background of high-energy nuclear physics, I discovered how ‘to learn by example’ from the good and great Howard Penman and from my sometime intellectual sparring partner, John Monteith. From them I learned to seek detailed understanding, but then to use that understanding to simplify to what is adequate and practical. I had the extreme good fortune to join the Institute of Hydrology in the U.K., whose director at that time, Jim McCulloch, was a man of immense vision. Jim took me under his wing, and as I grew in confidence, he progressively exposed me to a widening range of new disciplinary influences. My first fellow travelers were in the Thetford Project, in which working as a team led by John Stewart, I believe we essentially created the subject of forest micrometeorology. Good friends made during that period are still my fellow travelers; I was, for instance, walking with John Gash in the Brazilian rain forest just last week.

‘Och!, ye need to larn somethin’ aboot plants, Laddie,’ said Jim McCulloch in his Scottish brogue. So I learned by example from plant physiologists and ecologists like John Roberts and Paul Jarvis, and consequently, the understanding, equations, and models got better. ‘It’s time we knew how to measure evaporation, Laddie,’ said Jim McCulloch. So we learned about electronics and microprocessors, sonic anemometers, infrared radiometers, and online and offline software and built the first eddy correlation flux measuring system capable of routine use. I hope my fellow travelers of that time, Chris Moore, Dave MacNeil, Colin Lloyd, and Howard Oliver, get the same satisfaction I do when they see the huge arrays of similar systems now being deployed around the world in Flux Net initiatives.

‘Ye need t’ talk with the meteorologists and remote sensors more, Laddie,’ said Jim McCulloch, and with that began the decade in which the number and disciplines of my fellow travelers grew explosively. It started with studies in the Amazon, where, with some trepidation, we made the first tropical forest micrometeorological experiment, working with many fine Brazilian fellow travelers, including Luis Molion and Carlos Nobre. It is rewarding to see where those first studies led. Currently, there are almost a dozen forest towers and 200B300 scientists actively working on related research in Amazonia. Understanding how to represent the sometimes heterogeneous land surface in meteorological models and learning how to apply relevant remotely sensed data became the theme of a whole series of subsequent large-scale field experiments, including HAPEX-MOBILHY, FIFE, EFEDA, and HAPEX-Sahel. My fellow travelers during these important experiments are far too numerous to mention individually, but I recall with particular fondness the times I spent with Jean-Claude Andre, Hans-Jurgen Bolle, and Piers Sellers struggling to make all that research feasible and fundable.

Afraid that I might become a pure administrator if I stayed in the U.K., through the intervention of my very good friend Soroosh Sorooshian, I came to America and joined the distinguished faculty of the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources at the University of Arizona. Since then, my fellow travelers in the great adventure of hydrology have grown to include Gene Rasmusson, John Schaake, Eric Wood, Dennis Lettenmaier, and many more outstanding scientists involved in GCIP and GAPP. I have also learned by example from new fellow travelers who are experts in ocean-atmosphere interactions in the GOALS and VAMOS programs, such as Peter Webster, Ed Sarachik, Kevin Trenberth, Roger Lucas, and Roberto Mechoso. I am currently trying to learn more about water-related policy and legal issues from new fellow travelers. However, this is a really difficult area for me to understand, so my progress is painfully slow!

Over the last decade, my favorite fellow travelers are the outstanding students and postdocs who have worked with me. It is impossible to name them all, and I appreciate and value all of them. Knowing my fondness of students, Dennis Lettenmaier suggested that I might conclude by saying what I have learned in my journey through life that might be helpful advice for young hydrologists. Three things come to mind. First, there are basically two ways to proceed, by taking safe small steps or by making risky leaps forward, recognizing that you are bound to fail about half of the time. In my experience, the latter way leads to more rapid progress and is certainly more exciting. Second, respect the established peers in your field, but don’t necessarily believe them. Finally, and perhaps most important, remember that it is very difficult to keep your own end of the boat afloat while trying to sink the guy at the other end!

Fellow travelers in hydrology, thank you for your attention. Thank you for the first Hydrology Section Award in the real new millennium. I will treasure it.

James Shuttleworth, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA