Hermann M. Fritz
The 2014 Plinius Medal is awarded to Hermann M. Fritz for his outstanding laboratory- and field-research achievements in the generation and propagation of tsunamis.
Hermann Fritz received his PhD degree in hydraulic engineering at ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) in 2002 and, since 2003, has been an assistant and now associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, US. His research centres on the fluid dynamic aspects of natural hazards such as tsunamis, hurricane storm surges and landslides as well as their mitigation and coastal protection. His research in hydrodynamic water waves and coastal engineering includes laboratory experiments, theory, simulations and extensive field work. In the field, he has co-organised more than a dozen post-disaster reconnaissance campaigns encompassing both tsunamis (Tohoku 2011, Chile 2010, Haiti 2010, Mentawai 2010, Solomon Islands 2010 & 2007, Samoa & Tonga 2009, Peru 2007, Java 2006, Indian Ocean 2004) and cyclonic storms (Cyclone Nargis 2008, Cyclone Gonu 2007, Hurricane Katrina 2005). The data collected from these surveys has had a significant impact on our understanding of the damage brought by these disasters.
Fritz’s field work has not simply consisted of compiling a vast amount of data; it has also resulted in the development of innovative techniques, such as the scientific analysis of videos, obtained from survivors and surveillance cameras, of tsunamis invading coastal communities, which has allowed the first quantification of the mechanical parameters of their flow. This has been of paramount importance for disaster mitigation, since it provides unprecedented constrains on the dynamics of the tsunamis as they attack coastal communities. In the laboratory, he has led multiple-phases of fully three dimensional large scale landslide tsunami experiments. Using state-of-the-art technologies, Fritz successfully obtained very high-quality data for the challenging 3D tsunami propagation problem.
In addition to his research work, Fritz has also been active in outreach. For example, he played an essential part in the BBC Horizon series on mega-tsunamis. Fritz has carried out superlative research related to many aspects of natural hazards, principally tsunamis and hurricanes, is engaged in many collaborations and has produced results of great value towards the mitigation of natural hazards. For these reasons, he is a worthy recipient of the Plinius Medal.