S.K. Satheesh

Indian Institute of Science

2017 Devendra Lal Memorial Medal Winner

S. K. Satheesh was awarded the 2017 Devendra Lal Memorial Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 13 December 2017 in New Orleans, La. The medal is for “outstanding Earth and/or space sciences research by a scientist belonging to and working in a developing nation.”


Satheesh is a pioneer in aerosol research. He has made outstanding contributions to our understanding of the climate impact of atmospheric aerosols. He was among the first to demonstrate that there was a significant discrepancy between shortwave radiative heating at the ocean surface and the top of the atmosphere due to light absorbing aerosols. This was a significant finding since prior work had focused mostly on light scattering sulfate aerosols of anthropogenic origin. He then innovatively combined satellite data with field experiments and numerical model simulations to show that aerosols can alter the natural hydrological cycle and cloud properties. As chief mission scientist of several aircraft field campaigns, in his work he has shown the presence and the role of elevated aerosol layers that influence the onset of the Indian monsoon. These elevated aerosol layers over India show strong meridional gradients with increased aerosol warming that have implications for the amount of rainfall over this region. Furthermore, his recent work has shown that black carbon can become elevated to the stratosphere, having serious implications for ozone loss and recovery.

Satheesh continues to impress the community with his creativity by pioneering the design of a small satellite based on multiangle polarization techniques to measure and assess the role of aerosols on climate. He has also developed an angular scattering instrument to study the role of aerosol mixing that is vital for satellite and modeling studies.

Using his ­Aerosol-​­Climate Observatory in the Indian Institute of Science and the Center for Climate Excellence in Chitradurga, he trains and mentors the next generation of aerosol scientists.

As a longtime colleague, I am excited that he is the 2017 winner of the Devendra Lal Memorial Medal. His long list of awards and honors bears testimony to his hard work and diligence. Not only is he a tireless worker and a creative aerosol researcher, but also he works with astonishing humility with colleagues all around the world to solve important research problems.

I am looking forward to more exciting breakthroughs from his current and future work.

—Sundar Christopher, University of Alabama in Huntsville


I am delighted to be named as a recipient of the Devendra Lal Memorial Medal and thank AGU for bestowing on me this great honor. I thank Sundar Christopher for nominating me and for the generous citation. I thank others who supported my nomination and the committee members, who assessed the value of my contributions. My research contributions were possible because of the consistent support and encouragement from my colleagues, mentors, students, and collaborators, and I would like to express my deep gratitude to all of them.

I developed my interest in atmospheric science after learning about the Earth’s ionosphere during my undergraduate studies. I pursued my doctoral work at the Space Physics Laboratory, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, with K. Krishna Moorthy as my thesis adviser, and I am grateful to him for being an excellent mentor. I joined the laboratory with a physics background, without knowing much about the Earth’s atmosphere, and learned a lot about aerosols from him. My adviser and the then director of the laboratory, B. V. Krishna Murthy, treated me like a colleague, which was a huge encouragement in shaping my career. I was a postdoc at the Center for Clouds, Chemistry and Climate (C 4 ), Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, under V. Ramanathan and his outstanding research team. This provided me an excellent opportunity to gain knowledge about atmospheric radiative transfer from Ram.

I joined the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, as a faculty member and became part of a creative academic environment. At the institute, J. Srinivasan played an important role in shaping my scientific career. I received generous support for my research from the Indian Space Research Organisation, Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and Divecha Centre for Climate Change. A ­1-year sabbatical at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center with Lorraine Remer and her fantastic team was very productive. I got a rare opportunity to sharpen my knowledge on satellite remote sensing.

Finally, I am grateful to my parents and family for their support over the years. I thank my wife, Deepshikha Singh, and my son, Satdeep, for their constant support, cooperation, and encouragement.

—S. K. Satheesh, Divecha Centre for Climate Change and Centre for Atmosphere and Oceanic Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore