The BBVA Foundation -- which promotes knowledge based on research and artistic and cultural creation, and supports activity on the analysis of emerging issues in five strategic areas: environment, biomedicine and health, economy and society, basic sciences and technology, and Culture -- recognizes MIT Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science Kerry Emanuel’s body of research on hurricanes and their evolution in a changing climate, as well as his effectiveness for communicating these issues. The annually bestowed Climate Change award acknowledges “both research endeavors in confronting this challenge and impactful actions informed by the best science.”
“By understanding the essential physics of atmospheric convection…he has unraveled the behavior of tropical cyclones – hurricanes and typhoons – as our climate changes,” cites the foundation’s conferring committee.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, after completing degrees at MIT and later joining the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) faculty, Emanuel pinned down the mechanisms behind hurricanes and how warming surface oceans fuel storms and increase intensity as the climate changes. This issue is of particular concern to humanity because, of the natural events, tropical cyclones cause many deaths and bring about high economic costs. Further research has probed connections between anthropogenic global warming and cyclone frequency, intensity, development time, and geographical expansion of hurricane occurrence.
The selection committee noted Emanuel’s exceptional theories and research that “has opened new approaches for assessing risks from weather extremes.” He has expanded this work by co-founding the MIT Lorenz Center, a climate think tank which fosters creative approaches to learning how climate works.
For Bjorn Stevens, BBVA Foundation committee chairman and Director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, “it is hard to imagine an area of climate science where one person’s leadership is so incontestable.”