Prestigious award for mathematician exploring climate by numbers

A scientist at the University of Leicester has been honoured for his work in using mathematics to understand our climate.

Professor Valerio Lucarini from the University of Leicester School of Mathematics and Computer Science is to be awarded the Keilis-Borok Medal by the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG).

The award recognises his ‘outstanding contribution to mathematical geophysics and development of cutting-edge mathematical theories for understanding the climate system fluctuations and its response to forcing,’ according to the official citation. 

Professor Lucarini has established himself as a world leader in mathematical geophysics, and, specifically, in the area of mathematics of climate. His work has advanced our fundamental understanding of the climate system through the creative and rigorous use of statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, dynamical systems theory, and probability theory.  

Most recently, Professor Lucarini worked on mathematical modelling of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, one of the main ocean current systems, that revealed new fascinating aspects of the complexity of the dynamics of climate. That complexity suggests that our climate is less predictable than previously thought, and that it may not provide straightforward ‘early warning’ indicators of a climate disaster.

The Keilis-Borok Medal is awarded by the Commission of Mathematical Geophysics (CMG) of the IUGG, the international organization dedicated to advancing, promoting, and communicating knowledge of the Earth system, its space environment, and the dynamical processes causing change.  

The aim of the Keilis-Borok Medal is to honour the legacy of Vladimir Keels-Borok - a visionary science leader and organizer, prolific seismologist and mathematical geophysicist, the CMG founder, and former IUGG President – in promoting transformative scientific advancement and selfless leadership. The Medal honours outstanding contributions in the area of mathematical geophysics. Professor Lucarini will be presented with the Medal at the 34th CMG conference that will be held in Mumbai on June 2-7 2024. 

Professor Valerio Lucarini said: “It is a great honour to receive an award from an international body of the importance and prestige of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics. I am enormously indebted to my past and present students and scientific collaborators, without whom this achievement would of course have been impossible. 

“Interdisciplinary research and international cooperation have always been key elements of my academic work. Hence, I wish to thank my friends and colleagues from the MPECDT, TRR181, CliSAP, CRESCENDO, BlueAction, TiPES, CriticalEarth, and ClimTIP projects. I also need to thank the institutions that have supported my academic career, and in particular the University of Bologna, the University of Reading, the University of Hamburg, and, of course, my current scientific home, the University of Leicester.”

Professor Leena Sodha, Head of School, and Professor Ruslan Davidchack, Deputy Head of School, said: “We are very happy for Valerio and very proud that he is a member of our School and the University of Leicester.  As the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, we are conducting research that addresses problems whose solution is vital for continued and sustained prosperity of the human civilization, and climate modelling is certainly one such problem.  We congratulate Valerio on this achievement and wish him more success in the future."