Strong Receives 2008 James R. Holton Junior Scientist Award

Courtenay Strong received the James R. Holton Junior Scientist Award at the 2008 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 17 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes outstanding research contributions by a junior atmospheric scientist within 3 years of his or her Ph.D.


strong_courtenayCourtenay Strong is truly an exceptional young scientist. He is intelligent, intellectually curious, and unafraid to tackle new areas, as evidenced by his broad background, yet he is focused on the problem at hand. He has published on subjects as diverse as micro meteorology, the tropical and Arctic bound-ary layers, jet structures and trends, and the effects of atmospheric Rossby wave breaking on the atmospheric general circulation as well as the ocean sur-face. On the last topic he made the discovery that the upper tropospheric process of Rossby wave breaking has a deep three-dimensional structure that organizes patterns of surface advection and surface turbulent heat flux, directly affecting the principal pattern of Pacific extra tropical sea surface tempera-ture variability, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. This discovery goes a long way to explaining the part of the “atmospheric bridge” concept that ties proc-esses in the upper troposphere to the ocean surface. His work exemplifies how pure atmospheric dynamics, the hallmark of Jim Holton’s work, remains relevant to climate dynamics and the interaction of the atmosphere with other components of the climate system. This makes him an ideal candidate for the James R. Holton Junior Scientist Award.

Gudrun Magnusdottir, University of California, Irvine


I first encountered the work of James R. Holton as a student reading An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology, and later began learning directly from his publications on wave-mean flow interaction and middle-atmosphere dynamics. Now, with increasing frequency, I have the pleasure of talking with scientists who remember Jim Holton as a colleague, mentor, collaborator, and friend. His career and accomplishments are an inspiration to me, and his work will continue to inspire future researchers and educators.

I am grateful for my postdoctoral mentor, Gudrun Magnusdottir. I have grown considerably as a scientist under her guidance and with our productive collaboration on exciting research. I have had many valuable interactions within Gudrun’s network of colleagues, and I thank her for bringing me to the University of California, Irvine. I am grateful to Bob Davis and José Fuentes for providing critical guidance during my graduate research at the University of Virginia and for shaping my ideas about a career in academia, and I am grateful for Mike Mann’s inspiring course on the analysis of climate data and his helpful participation on my dissertation committee.

I will join the faculty at the University of Utah this fall, and I am excited about teaching and building a research group. In these endeavors, I will aim to convey the excitement and thoughtful science embodied in the Holton Award.

Courtenay Strong, University of California, Irvine