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Jerry X. Mitrovica

Jerry X. Mitrovica
Jerry X. Mitrovica

The 2006 Augustus Love Medal is awarded to Jerry X. Mitrovica for his astute contributions to understanding the Earth’s dynamical response to external and internal forces, including glacial unloading, mantle viscosity and composition, sedimentary basin formation, sea level variations and Earth’s rotation.

Jerry X. Mitrovica has made a number of seminal contributions. In a 1996 paper he identified the key observations of glacial rebound that most directly constrain the viscosity of the mantle and demonstrated consistency of modern work with that of Haskell in 1935. The key to the reconciliation was the recognition of changing definitions of what comprised the “upper mantle” along with a formal inversion procedure that revealed the quantitative resolving power of the observations. An increase of viscosity at 660 km depth was also demonstrated. Jerry’s insightful approach made practical the application of formal inversion methods and clarified a confused subject.

This work has since been extended to incorporate other constraints, including those from Earth’s rotation, mantle convection, global geodesy and mineral physics. The work has also been influential in the development and design of observational programs, in which Jerry is actively involved.

In the 1980s Jerry was among the first to study the vertical deflections of the Earth’s surface induced by mantle convection and was the first to apply this rigorously to the interpretation of sedimentary basin formation, initially in the Cretaceous downwarping of the western United States and subsequently in other regions.

Jerry coauthored studies in the late 1990s that took his interests in novel directions. In one, a relationship was demonstrated between mantle convection, the rotational flattening of the Earth and resonant gravitational torques induced by Jupiter and Saturn. This will improve our understanding of Earth’s rotational fluctuations and of past climate variations. Another study showed that true polar wander may have contributed substantially to long-term sea level changes, which may have had a previously-unsuspected regional geography.

Jerry also demonstrated in 2001 that sea level changes vary geographically depending on the source of water causing the change. This has application not only to glacial rebound studies and continental evolution but also to understanding the effects of climate change and the potential impact of human activities.

Jerry is an outstanding mentor of students and junior colleagues, enthusiastic and generous with his time. He is an admirable role model for young scientists. He plays an active role in the international scientific community and is providing leadership in international collaborations.