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Eric W. Wolff

Eric W. Wolff
Eric W. Wolff

The 2009 Louis Agassiz Medal is awarded to Eric W. Wolff for his outstanding contributions to the study of the chemical composition of snow cover and ice cores and their use in the determination of past climates, pollution and atmospheric chemistry.

Dr Eric’s Wolff’s major contributions to glaciology have been in the analysis and interpretation of chemical species in snow and in ice cores and the understanding of glacial cycles. His earlier work also included fundamental contributions to ice physics such as his 1985 Nature paper on the flow law for polar ice.

Wolff is arguably the most productive and original scholar of his generation working in the field snow/ice chemistry. He produced the first reliable measurements of changes in lead and other heavy metals in Antarctic snow over the 20th Century and the first direct demonstration that some impurities in polar ice are located at triple junctions and grain boundaries. Wolff’s work played a significant role in developing the connection between electrical properties and chemical content of polar ice. He has contributed substantially to studying atmospheric chemistry over saline sea ice surfaces and was responsible for the proposal that sea salt in ice cores can be an indicator of past sea ice extent. His most recent studies have focused on the nature of interglacials and glacial terminations.

He has played a central and instrumental role in the extremely successful European Polar Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) programme, leading the production and publication of the 740,000 year-long chemistry record from the EPICA ice core, and developed biogeochemical interpretations related to such chemistry.

In less than three decades Wolff has published some 128 peer-reviewed journal articles and an additional ~30 book chapters, reviews, popular articles and reports. In 2007, he was an author on 18 papers alone. His work is greatly esteemed and highly cited with ~3000 citations and an H-index of 30 (500 citations in 2007).

Eric Wolff has also served the community most effectively, and for many years, through membership of numerous steering committees and grant awarding councils and more recently a co-chief editor for the EGU journal: Climate of the Past. The remarkable breadth and quality of his contribution to the field of cryospheric sciences makes him a fitting recipient of an award named after Louis Agassiz.