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Raffaele Ferrari receives Cody Award in Ocean Sciences

EAPS professor honored for excellence in oceanography.
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Raffaele Ferrari co-organized and spoke at the MIT on Climate: Science + Action event.
Raffaele Ferrari co-organized and spoke at the MIT on Climate: Science + Action event.
Photo courtesy of Raffaele Ferrari.

Raffaele Ferrari, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor in Earth and Planetary Sciences and Director of the MIT Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate, has been selected to receive the 2016 Robert L. and Bettie P. Cody Award in Ocean Sciences.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego biannually bestows the Cody Award to a scientist in recognition of outstanding contributions to and achievement in physical oceanography, marine biology, and Earth science. While several individuals were considered for the prestigious prize, Ferrari’s “pioneering efforts toward understanding the nature and rates of oceanic mixing and their consequences for the general circulation,” were among several reasons for his selection.

MIT professor emeritus of physical cceanography Carl Wunsch’s seasoned insight and justification helped to settle the matter. The prize citation reads:

"Raffaele Ferrari is awarded the 2016 Cody Prize for his stimulating and collaborative work directed at mechanisms of oceanic mixing and their interesting and sometimes unexpected consequences. With colleagues he has worked to greatly improve the rendering of mixing processes in numerical models directed at climate change and along the way has illuminated mixing processes with special attention to the submesoscale near the ocean surface, the mixed-layer generally, and the internal tide/internal wave field in its interactions with topography. He has applied these ideas towards illuminating the oceanic energy field, the paleocirculation, and studied the consequences for climate change generally."

Ferrari’s research examines the circulation of the ocean, its impact on present and past climates, and its role on shaping biological productivity. His group combines observations, theory, and numerical models to investigate the physics and biology of the ocean from scales of centimeters to thousand of kilometers. He collaborates with several groups and centers across the institute, including the Climate Modeling Initiative, the MIT-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program and MIT General Circulation Model.

In addition to the accolade, Scripps Institution of Oceanography has invited Ferrari to present the Cody Award public lecture at 3 p.m. on Oct. 12 in the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment (Scripps Seaside Forum), in La Jolla, California, as well as another talk at UC San Diego on his work later this year. Ferrari’s lecture, “The Role of Ocean Turbulence in Climate,” will show how small-scale ocean features can translate significant effects to the larger ocean and climate systems, but because of their size, they are too small to be incorporated into global climate models. Atmospheric clouds share a similar issue.

“Clouds are the Achilles heel of our atmosphere models,” said Ferrari in a statement. “In the lecture we will explore the Achilles heels of ocean models, how they impact our understanding of present and past climates, and the progress we are making in healing the heels.”

In the moments between his research pursuits, Ferrari directs the Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate (PAOC), coordinates outreach events and stories with Oceans at MIT — an organization that pulls together all oceans-related content from MIT and WHOI — and is helping to oversee and direct the upcoming Climate@MIT group.

Before arriving at MIT, Ferrari attended the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Polytechnic University of Turin, earning PhDs in physical oceanography and fluid dynamics, respectively. So, when Ferrari learned that he’d be the 13th recipient of the Cody Award, the selection held a special significance.

“I was a graduate student at Scripps from 1995 until 2000, so I am particularly honored to receive an award from my alma mater,” Ferrari said. “I remember attending the Cody Award lectures as a student, but I never imagined I would be delivering one in the future.”

The endowment for the Cody Award was established by the late Robert Cody and his wife Bettie, along with a significant contribution from Capital Research and Management Company, in recognition of Robert Cody's service to the Los Angeles-based firm.

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