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URI scientist awarded Ewing Medal by American Geophysical Union for oceanographic research

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – August 21, 2009 – H. Thomas Rossby, a professor at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, will be awarded the 2009 Maurice Ewing Medal by the American Geophysical Union at its annual fall meeting in San Francisco in December.

Established in 1974 and jointly sponsored with the U.S. Navy, the award is presented to the individual “who has led the way in understanding physical, geophysical, and geological processes in the ocean; who is a leader in scientific ocean engineering, technology, and instrumentation; or who has given outstanding service to marine science.”

Rossby was honored for his development and deployment of instrumentation that makes innovative use of underwater acoustics and advancing knowledge of deep ocean currents.

“Although I am neither a geologist or geophysicist, it turns out I do have one significant connection to Ewing,” said Rossby. “He discovered and wrote a major treatise on the deep sound channel that allows sound to travel great distances in the ocean. I have used this property for many years for underwater acoustic navigation to track drifting floats at depth that describe how waters move about in the deep ocean. This has turned out to be a very powerful tool for studies of ocean circulation over a wide range of scales.”

During his extensive career, Rossby’s research has focused on understanding ocean circulation, especially the Gulf Stream, and how it impacts weather and climate around the world. He has published countless papers and earned numerous awards for his work, including the Munk Award from The Oceanographic Society and the 2006 Suomi Award from the American Meteorological Society. He is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union and a member of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

A native of Boston who now lives in Saunderstown, Rossby earned his engineering degree in applied physics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, and a Ph.D. in oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Maurice Ewing Medal is named for the man who founded the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, serving as its director from 1949 to 1972, before leaving to found the Earth and Planetary Sciences Division of the University of Texas Marine Sciences Institute.

The American Geophysical Union is the world’s largest organization of Earth and space scientists.

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.