The 2008 Alfred Wegener Medal & Honorary Membership is awarded to Pierre Morel for his outstanding contributions to geophysical fluid dynamics and his leadership in the development of climate research and the applications of space observation to meteorology and the Earth system science.
Pierre Morel began his research activity as a theoretical physicist, with a doctoral thesis on the existence and properties of a condensed superfluid state of liquid Helium 3 at very low temperature. The existence of this superfluid state was verified experimentally only ten years later. Professor at the University of Paris, he lectured on basic physics, geophysical fluid dynamics and climate science.
All along his 40-year long career, Pierre Morel was one of the most active scientist initiating and developing tools and international program, which allow meteorological and climatic research to make a major step forward: He launched the French space research programs in universities and scientific institutions, as well as technology research and developments in the French industry. He was Principal Investigator of the first French/US environmental cooperative satellite project EOLE, involving a fleet of 500 constant-altitude meteorological balloons that drifted around the earth for more than a year and were tracked by a dedicated data relay satellite. He was instrumental in further developing the same concept for the operational ARGOS satellite tracking and data relay system, provided by France for installation on US (NOAA) polar-orbiting meteorological satellites since 1979. The ARGOS concept has also applied to create the new satellite-based Search and Rescue system (SARSAT) over land and at sea.
He then initiated the European METEOSAT geostationary satellite system. From 1982 to 1994, he was Director of the World Climate Research Program and steered a broad interdisciplinary research program in global climate and earth system science, involving the participation of atmospheric, oceanic, hydrological and polar scientists worldwide. His continuous action has clearly been one of the keys of the success of the climate research everywhere in the world. During his directorship, one of the major achievements of his action was the successful prediction of El Niño events one year in advance. This scientific progress was the source of a lot of economical benefits for countries in the tropical band.
Video of the Alfred Wegener Medal Lecture given at the EGU General Assembly 2008.