The 2021 Milutin Milankovic Medal is awarded to Ayako Abe-Ouchi for fundamental contributions to our understanding of climate-ice sheet interactions on orbital timescales and how they shape the planetary response to Milankovic cycles.
Ayako Abe-Ouchi received her PhD from ETH Zurich in 1993. The thesis research was on modelling the ice sheet response to climate change, a topic that has been at the centre of her research interests ever since.
Abe-Ouchi has made an outstanding contribution to our understanding of climate change on orbital timescales through a body of modelling work that has set a new standard for the field. She has demonstrated that the 100,000-year periodicity of the most recent glacial cycles can be understood through internal feedbacks between climate, ice-sheet volume, and the isostatic response, including the rapid terminations of each cycle. Her work provides a compelling solution to the long-standing “100-kyr problem” in palaeoclimate research: the observation that the ice-age cycles have a dominant 100,000-year periodicity, despite weak orbital forcing at that frequency.
More recently, Abe-Ouchi’s work has been focusing on simulating Dansgaard-Oeschger oscillations and how their occurrence and timing characteristics depend on the background climate. This work is opening new avenues in investigating the interaction between millennial-scale and orbital-scale climate change.
Abe-Ouchi is also widely recognized as a community leader who has played key roles in the IPCC, in the ice-coring community, and in various model inter-comparison projects. She was a contributing author on the Third Assessment Report; lead author on the Fifth Assessment Report; and review editor for the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. Abe-Ouchi has also been instrumental in the success of multiple model intercomparison studies. She is a member of the steering committee for the Paleoclimate Model Intercomparison Project (PMIP) and the Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project (ISMIP) and has actively contributed to the experimental design of both.
Owing to her fundamental scientific contributions, leadership on model intercomparison, and service to the IPCC, Ayako Abe-Ouchi is a scientist representing the very best of our community. She is an exceptionally worthy recipient of the 2021 Milankovic Medal.