The 2023 Alfred Wegener Medal & Honorary Membership is awarded to Harry Vereecken for groundbreaking contributions to linking soil-plant-atmosphere processes across scales.
Harry Vereecken has made groundbreaking contributions to soil-plant-atmosphere research with a focus on subsurface processes related to the hydrological and biochemical cycles. Not only has he greatly advanced the specific research on the subject, perhaps more importantly, he has been an integrator of connecting the individual sub-processes and sub-disciplines.
Harry Vereecken recognised early on the need for exploring subsurface flow processes by geophysical methods. He integrated soil information into hydraulic functions and developed methods for estimating subsurface properties by combining these hydraulic functions with geophysical and data assimilation techniques using remotely sensed data. He advanced subsurface hydrology and pollutant transport through his pioneering studies on transport processes in heterogeneous soils. These include the development of inverse modelling approaches to better estimate the soil characteristics from soil moisture, soil pore pressure and other variables. These also include the development of upscaling schemes to connect local field measurements with environmental modelling and satellite observations.
Harry Vereecken has also been instrumental in strengthening the observational data base of the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. He masterminded the TERENO (Terrestrial environmental observatories) initiative, a blueprint for the establishment of large-scale European and worldwide infrastructures for ecological, critical zone and global climate research. As part of these activities, he developed wireless sensor technologies to enable more effective characterization of soil moisture and subsurface heterogeneities. He helped formulate the blueprint for the ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) research infrastructure on ecological long term research and established the European Network of Hydrological Observatories. He is presently leading an international effort of forming a global lysimeter network to foster stronger links between the soil, hydrology and climate communities facilitated via the GEWEX (Global Energy and Water Exchanges) project. His research and these initiatives have radically improved our understanding of soil-plant-atmosphere interactions across scales.
Harry Vereecken has been very active within EGU as evidenced by his services and organisation of sessions. He has made outstanding scientific contributions that have had a lasting impact on soil-plant-atmosphere research, and he demonstrated exceptional scientific leadership. Harry Vereecken is therefore a very worthy recipient of the 2023 EGU Alfred Wegener Medal.
Medal lecture video (Vimeo) of the Alfred Wegener Medal given at the EGU General Assembly 2023.