Sonia I. Seneviratne
The 2021 Hans Oeschger Medal is awarded to Sonia I. Seneviratne for her groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of land-climate dynamics, their relevance to weather and climate extremes, and their implications for anthropogenic climate change.
Sonia Seneviratne has done pioneering work in recognizing the role that soil moisture plays in the climate system. She demonstrated how soil moisture variability affects the occurrence of climate extremes, thereby reshaping the understanding of the dynamics of hot extremes and mega-heatwaves. By uncovering the importance of soil moisture, Seneviratne contributed substantially to our knowledge of the interactions between the carbon cycle and the water cycle. She also linked hot extremes directly to cumulative carbon emissions and pioneered the analysis of compound extreme events.
In addition to these outstanding academic successes, Seneviratne has shown global leadership by her roles in the Global Energy and Water Exchanges experiment, the World Climate Research programme, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She has made tremendous contributions to raising climate change awareness among policymakers and the general public and advanced the development of novel open-access datasets. Seneviratne is a strong supporter of Early Career Scientists and an excellent mentor to her group members. Sonia Seneviratne’s shining example of science in service to society provides an inspiring role model in the legacy of Hans Oeschger.