CIMSS director, professor wins AGU Ascent Award

September 30, 2020 | Jean Phillips

Tristan L’Ecuyer, director of the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies and professor of atmospheric science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been selected to receive the 2020 American Geophysical Union’s Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award. The award recognizes exceptional mid-career scientists.

L’Ecuyer is being honored for his innovative leadership and influential research that utilizes satellite remote sensing to advance our understanding of the Earth’s climate system. His cross-disciplinary research is increasingly important as evidence mounts about global climate change and policy makers look to science for guidance on measures to address the problem.

CIMSS director and professor of atmospheric science Tristan L’Ecuyer has been selected to receive the 2020 American Geophysical Union’s Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award.
Credit: Eric Verbeten

“I am honored to be recognized by the AGU for my contributions to advancing the use of satellite observations in climate research,” L’Ecuyer said. “Through global coordination, satellite observations provide a unique and irreplaceable view of our planet that will play a key role in mitigating the impacts of climate change.”

Ascending, and accelerating, are apt descriptors of L’Ecuyer’s career trajectory. Associate Dean for Research at Texas A&M University Ping Yang notes in his nomination letter, “L’Ecuyer is in the unique position of simultaneously leading a NASA mission to observe the polar energy budgets and directing a large, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cooperative institute whose mission is to address the nation’s weather and climate needs.”

NASA and the NOAA have long worked together to transfer NASA research results into NOAA operational programs. L’Ecuyer has leveraged his expertise that intersects both agencies to promote stronger and better coordination of the US Earth observing satellite program. To that end, he is an invited member of NASA and NOAA committees that are defining observational requirements, science objectives and satellite observing system architectures for the future.

According to Yang, L’Ecuyer has published some of his most influential work in the last few years. In 2015, he led a large team of researchers for a NASA-funded study that constructed state-of-the-art views of Earth’s energy and water cycles. “This work has become the benchmark against which modern climate models are being assessed,” says Yang.

As a professor, L’Ecuyer is known for involving graduate students in his programs, in conducting the research and publishing the results. Since arriving at UW–Madison, he has mentored and graduated 19 students, many of whom are now making their own important contributions to the field.

Through his leadership nationally and internationally, L’Ecuyer is poised to influence the future direction of global observations and their crucial role in climate science.

The award will be presented to L’Ecuyer, along with three other recipients, at the AGU Fall Meeting in December 2020.