George Tselioudis

2004 Charles S. Falkenberg Award Winner

George Tselioudis received the Falkenberg Award at the 2004 Joint Assembly Honors Ceremony, which was held on 19 May 2004 in Montreal, Canada. The award honors “a scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”


“I have known George Tselioudis from his days as a graduate student in the mid-1980s at Columbia University, and have seen him develop into one of our most dedicated and talented climate researchers.

“He has applied his training in physics and meteorology to address a fundamental problem for the climate research community: the role clouds play as a major feedback in the climate system.

“From the earliest stages in his career, George has shown leadership and initiative. His dissertation overturned long-standing claims about how an increase in cloud brightness would counteract global warming. For this work, his peers at GISS chose him as the first winner of our now annual ‘best publication’ award.

“The distribution and availability of water on Earth is one of the critical global issues in the 21st century. Dr. Tselioudis’s latest research outlines and quantifies the role that storm systems play in distributing water in different regions of our planet.

“He understands the value of working across disciplines and has developed excellent interactions between climate modeling and satellite, aircraft, and ground observation groups. A product of these interactions is unique methods for using these data in climate studies, including innovative techniques for evaluating climate model simulations.

“Most recently, Dr. Tselioudis evolved a dimension of his research to consider the economic impacts of storm damage and climate change. He is working on this problem with new colleagues at the Earth Institute at Columbia University across science, economics, and environmental policy disciplines.

“Dr. Tselioudis has a great interest and deep belief in the idea that the Earth science community has a responsibility to make its results relevant to society and to contribute to public awareness about our planet. This is evident throughout his career in the way in which he has integrated public service and education outreach. As a graduate student, he volunteered to teach an Earth science enrichment class at Barnard College as part of a college preparatory program for New York City minority students. In 1994, George joined an ambitious education outreach initiative undertaken by the GISS science community. Its aim is to involve minority students and their educators from New York precollege and undergraduate institutions on our teams working on frontline climate research.

“Students, teachers, and scientists regard him as the most dedicated, creative, and successful of research mentors. In particular, they note that Dr. Tselioudis’s research team helped prepare them with today’s marketable workforce skills.

“It is all too rare to find young scientists who combine the talent to make substantive research contributions with an outstanding ability to communicate controversial science to the public. Whether his audience is high school students, undergraduate students and faculty, museum staff, or research faculty, George Tselioudis finds a way to draw them into his Earth science and challenge them to consider its broad applications in science and society.”

—JIM HANSEN, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, N.Y.


“It was primarily my participation in the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) outreach program, the Institute on Climate and Planets (ICP), that led to my selection as the 2004 Charles S. Falkenberg awardee. I want to thank the AGU and the Falkenberg family for recognizing the importance of outreach among scientists and for this honor. I would also like to thank Jim Hansen both for his kind words in the citation and for the opportunity to participate in ICP.

“A group of research scientists at NASA/GISS started the ICP program in 1994 with the aspiration of providing high school and college students with a taste of the research experience. We were full of good intentions, but knew little of what it takes to motivate and inspire young minds. We were lucky to have in the program high school teachers who were willing to test and apply innovative teaching methods, and a group of New York City students who had no problems questioning the importance and even the validity of their assigned research tasks.

“In order to respond to their continual questioning on the inner workings of our research and its tools, we were forced over the lifetime of the program to develop educational modules that explain how a numerical model simulates atmospheric processes or how a satellite measures atmospheric properties. Once the students gained a basic understanding of how the research tools worked, they were ready not only to analyze model and satellite data, but also to provide critical comments on model performance or the quality of satellite retrievals. In addition, the students’ questioning of the relevance of their research activities led us to address the societal impacts of our science. Through ICP we began building collaborations with economists and public health researchers and looking at issues like the relationships between aerosol emissions and asthma occurrence or between the strength of storms and their economic impact. Those projects not only captivated the students’ interest and released their ingenuity, but are also starting to produce important interdisciplinary results related to the impacts of climate change.

“In retrospect, the benefits that I received through my own ICP experience appear to be equal to if not greater than the students and teachers who have used the program as a springboard to advance academically and professionally. This is why I am saddened by the fact that despite the program’s great success and national recognition, as of this year the ICP funding is eliminated and the program is effectively canceled.”

—GEORGE TSELIOUDIS, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, N.Y.