The 2006 Lewis Fry Richardson Medal is awarded to Roberto Benzi for his original work on hydrodynamic stability, stochastic resonance in climate change, lattice Boltzmann methods, and the theoretical and numerical aspects of turbulence.
Roberto Benzi has made major contributions to the study of nonlinear phenomena and processes, in the geosciences and elsewhere. They include:
- The discovery of a new amplification mechanism, named “stochastic resonance,” which has been first applied to climate models in order to explain glaciation cycles. This mechanism is now accepted as a source of large-amplitude, irregular oscillations in many areas of the physical and life sciences, and Benzi’s early papers in this area are real landmarks.
- The application of computer-based diagnostic and visualization methods for the investigation of anomalous flows in the atmospheric general circulation.
- The development of a new theory for ultra-low-frequency planetary waves to explain the observed anomalous flows in the atmosphere. This theory provided a quantitative way to validate the basic mechanism of topographic instability for alternation between zonal and blocked flows in mid-latitudes.
- The pioneering use of multifractal measures to describe the structure of strange attractors in dynamical systems.
- The formulation of the Lattice Boltzmann Equation (LBE) for direct numerical simulations of turbulent flows, now widely used in many fields of computational fluid dynamics.
- The discovery of Extended Self-Similarity (ESS), an approach that has dramatically improved the accuracy in measuring scaling exponents for turbulent flows.
In addition to having written many seminal papers, Benzi is also editor or co-editor of four books, in the area of atmospheric sciences and turbulence.
Benzi has been a major leader in Italy in the development of computational fluid dynamics. He has trained many students in computational and theoretical work on turbulence.
While a Research Fellowship at the Istituto di Fisica dell’Atmosfera (IFA) of the CNR in Rome (1978-1981), Benzi has also been a visitor at Yale University (1979-1981). He then became a member of the Research Staff (1981) at the IBM Scientific Center in Rome (later the IBM European Research Center (ECSEC) in Rome), where he took on increasingly important responsibilities, as Project Leader on Atmospheric Science (1982) and Manager of the Computational Physics Group (1985). Testifying to his impact on computational fluid dynamics, he was awarded the IBM International Award for outstanding scientific and technical achievement (1984).
Benzi is a Full Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Roma II, “Tor Vergata,” since 2000. He has also been Consultant to the Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri for Meteorological National Services and a member of the “Autorità per l’Informatica nella Pubblica Amministrazione” (AIPA), nominated by the Prime Minister to develop and redesign the information systems of the Italian public administration.