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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI Graduate School of Oceanography Volcanologist Receives Prestigious Award for Scientific Research

Narragansett, RI -- January 31, 2002 -- At a November 23 ceremony at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, URI oceanographer Haraldur Sigurdsson received the Vening Meinesz Medal from the European Geophysical Society for his research on volcanism in the Indonesia region.

This medal was been established in 1997 in recognition of the scientific achievements of Dutch geodesist Vening Meinesz (1887-1966) who is especially known for his gravity measurements at sea. He devised the Vening Meinesz pendulum which made it possible to measure gravity at sea with comparable accuracy as on land.

Sigurdsson, a resident of Newport, has long conducted research in Indonesia with his GSO collaborator Dr. Steven Carey. Most notably, he has studied the catastrophic eruptions of Tambora volcano in 1815 that caused "the year without a summer" in North America and Krakatau volcano in 1883.

Sigurdsson joined the URI faculty in 1974. He has authored more than 120 articles in scientific journals and overseen more than 35 research proposals funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Geographic Society. He is the author of Caribbean Volcanoes: A Field Guide and Melting the Earth: The Evolution of Ideas about Volcanic Eruptions, and editor of the award-winning Encyclopedia of Volcanoes.

The results of some of his most recent work have been widely embraced as the "smoking gun" of the impact theory that explained why 70 percent of the earth’s plants and animals—including dinosaurs—disappeared 65 million years ago.

In addition studying volcanoes in Indonesia, Sigurdsson has delved into such historic explosions as the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. and the deadly eruption of El Chichon in Mexico in 1982.

With JASON Project founder Dr. Robert Ballard, Sigurdsson has co-hosted the international JASON Project expedition which took thousands of children around the country on a live exploration, via satellite, to two of the Earth’s hottest spots—Yellowstone National Park and Iceland.

Contact: Lisa Cugini, (401) 874-6642,

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