Alan Plumb Awarded AMS Charney Prize

Helen Hill
November 14, 2012

Professor of Meteorology, R. Alan Plumb, receives the 2012 Jules G. Charney Award of the American Meteorological Society for "fundamental contributions to the understanding of geophysical fluid dynamics, stratospheric dynamics, chemical transport, and the general circulation of the atmosphere and oceans."

Professor Plumb is an expert in atmospheric dynamics, with specific interest in the stratosphere, the global distribution of trace gases, and large-scale tropospheric dynamics. His seminal research accomplishments include: many fundamental contributions to our understanding of wave-mean flow interaction in the atmosphere, including basic theoretical results of broad relevance as well as application to atmospheric phenomena such as the quasi-biennial oscillation; explanation of the roles of  eddies and mean circulations in tracer transport; development of rigorous theoretical frameworks for interpreting tracer-tracer diagrams and "age of air" diagnostics derived from observations and numerical models of the stratosphere; technical and conceptual advances in our understanding of transport barriers, including the polar vortex edge and "tropical pipe"; and theory of the tropospheric Hadley circulations and monsoons, including elegant expositions of the role of angular momentum.  Hallmarks of Alan's style are mathematical elegance, physical intuition, clarity of insight and exposition, and tight integration of theoretical rigor and a keen eye for what is important in observations.

In addition to his research pursuits, Alan has trained many students and postdocs who have gone on to successful scientific careers, among them Professors Lorenzo Polvani (Columbia), Adam Sobel (Columbia) and Darryn Waugh (Johns Hopkins).  Their devotion to him was in evidence at the 'Plumbfest', held in his honor in 2008 at Columbia University to mark his 60th birthday.

Beyond MIT he served as a member of the NASA-WMO Ozone Assessment Panel, and the NASA High Speed Civil Transport Advisory Committee, which studied the effects of planned supersonic aircraft on the stratosphere. He also served as Chairman of the International Commission for Dynamical Meteorology's Working Group on Large-Scale Dynamics. In 1988 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. He became an American Geophysical Union Fellow (Discipline: Atmospheric Physics and Climate) in 2000. Plumb, who is originally from the UK, got his bachelor's and doctoral degrees from the University of Manchester, U.K. 

The Jule G. Charney Award is granted to individuals in recognition of highly significant research or development achievement in the atmospheric or hydrologic sciences. The award is in the form of a medallion. Nominations are considered by the Atmospheric Research Awards Committee, which makes recommendations for final approval by AMS Council. The last member of the PAOC faculty to receive this award was Richard Lindzen in 1985. Alan will receive his award at the 93rd AMS Annual Meeting 6-10 January, 2013 in Austin, TX.

Thanks to A. Sobel for help preparing this article.


Alan Plumb is an expert in atmospheric dynamics, with specific interest in the stratosphere, the global distribution of trace gases, and large-scale tropospheric dynamics.

Read more about Alan's career in this 2010 Geophysical Monographs Series essay by former student Adam Sobel, currently a professor at Columbia University.

Sobel, A. H. (2010), Foreword: R. Alan Plumb—A brief biographical sketch and personal tribute, in The Stratosphere: Dynamics, Transport, and ChemistryGeophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 190, edited by L. M. PolvaniA. H. Sobel, and D. W. Waugh, pp. vii–xi, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2010GM000998.

Plumbfest Website

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