Van der Wiel Receives 2017 James R. Holton Award

Karin van der Wiel will receive the 2017 James R. Holton Award at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award recognizes “outstanding scientific research and accomplishments by early-career scientists” who are “no more than three years past the award of the Ph.D. degree.”


“For her creative studies of climate extremes, in particular, those involving precipitation”

Dr. van der Wiel has distinguished herself by her ability to combine modeling with observations in new ways to explain various atmospheric phenomena. She began her career by studying the tropical dynamics related to the diagonal subtropical convergence zones of the Southern Hemisphere, developing a theory to explain why the South Pacific and Atlantic convergence zones are diagonal, the origin of their location and strength, and how they influence Rossby wave propagation. She then looked at extreme precipitation. She brought new insight into the fundamentals of our ability to model extreme precipitation in global climate models and how the field should interpret and test trends in observed and modeled precipitation extremes. She has brought an enthusiasm and creativity that is far beyond other scientists at a similar place in their careers. Her research has been picked up by the general press, and she has adeptly responded to their requests for information as well as to requests from governmental sources.

A statement in her supporting letter best summarizes Dr. van der Wiel’s research talents:“She amazed her supervisors with her insight into dynamical meteorology, theoretical and technical skills, and her ability to clearly communicate the main issues she was working on and always see the big picture. Her rate of progress was astounding.”

On behalf of the AGU Atmospheric Sciences section, I am pleased to present the 2017 James R. Holton Award to Dr. Karin van der Wiel.

—Joyce E. Penner, President, Atmospheric Sciences Section, AGU


It is a great honor to have been selected as one of the recipients of the award for junior atmospheric scientists this year. I would like to thank AGU, the Atmospheric Sciences awards committee, and those who put together my nomination. Seeing the somewhat daunting list of previous winners, I feel humbled yet excited to be at this stage in my scientific journey.

I was first introduced to atmospheric dynamics by means of James R. Holton’s textbook; it has served as an encyclopedia ever since. Receiving an award that bears his name is a recognition I never expected to receive.

One of the privileges of starting a (my) scientific career is that one gets to meet many inspiring people from around the world. I have been very lucky to have met, learned from, and sometimes worked with many passionate, smart, and kind people. All my accomplishments are a direct result of these interactions, and I would not be where I am today without the support of this community.

In particular, I would like to thank Adrian Matthews for his guidance and encouragement during my Ph.D.; also, David Stevens and Manoj Joshi; Gabriel Vecchi for his support over the years and all advice offered; and, finally, Sarah Kapnick for her mentorship. I feel empowered through knowing her.

I hope to be able to continue working in the atmospheric science field for many more years and eventually return as much as I have received from the scientific community.

—Karin van der Wiel, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, De Bilt