The 2018 Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Early Career Scientists is awarded to Mathieu Morlighem for his outstanding research in the field of ice-sheet modelling and his contribution to the dissemination of modelling methods and knowledge in the cryospheric community.
During his PhD, Mathieu Morlighem worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a core developer for the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM), a massively parallel, open-source, ice finite element model that implements several momentum balance models according to the type of flow encountered. Using this model in its early stages, Morlighem elegantly demonstrated the need for an ice-sheet model that can employ full Stokes equations of flow at ice-sheet grounding lines where they are needed to reproduce observations, but simpler (and computationally less expensive) models elsewhere. Morlighem has remained deeply involved in model development and recently pioneered the use of level-set methods, an implicit boundary-tracking scheme to permit changes in ice-sheet-calving fronts. He has also remained a co-organiser of yearly ISSM workshops aimed at interactive sessions that introduce beginners to ISSM and assimilation of available data products.
Another major accomplishment is Morlighem’s innovative method for reducing uncertainty in ice sheet bed/ice thickness using the mass-conservation approach. Not only does this method provide more robust information about the ice sheet bed topography in regions of critical importance (regions of fast-moving ice and grounding lines) but it also provides a mechanism for identifying regions where more data are needed. His bed product is considered superior to previous versions of bed data compilations for Greenland and is in wide use. From this work, Morlighem was able to identify important pinning points for Store Gletscher, Greenland, and a widespread network of ice-covered valleys throughout Greenland, as well as many other collaborative discoveries. In addition to his impressive contributions to the field, Morlighem is an open and responsive collaborator. He has worked with a broad range of collaborators and is easy to engage regarding new ideas and directions. Based on these achievements and his contributions to the cryospheric community, Mathieu Morlighem is a worthy recipient of the Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Early Career Scientists.