The 2006 Alexander von Humboldt Medal is awarded to Patricio Aceituno for his pioneering work in meteorology related to El Niño/Southern Oscillation and its impact on interannual and decadal rainfall variability in South America, and his achievements towards El Niño prediction.
Patricio Aceituno was born on June 9, 1950 in Santiago de Chile. He holds a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering (1974) at the Universidad de Chile,Santiago de Chile, and a PhD in Meteorology of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA (1987). He currently is Full Professor, Dpt. of Geophysics, and Director of the Graduate School, Facultad de Ciencias Fisicas y Matematicas, Universidad de Chile, Santiago de Chile.
Beginning with his PhD work he has devoted his main research efforts to the Meteorology of El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO).His pioneering papers On the Functioning of the Southern Oscillation in the South American Sector Part I: Surface Climate (Monthly Weather Review 116, 505-524, 1988) and Part II: Upper-Air Circulation (J. Climate 2, 341-355, 1989) made him known internationally as an expert in this field.
He investigated the interannual and ENSO related variability of climate elements, in particular temperatures and precipitation, with emphasis on South America. By relating these to sea surface temperatures of the tropical Pacific, he significantly improved methods for El Niño prediction.
His most recent investigations were related to atmospheric circulation anomalies and climatic dynamics along the arid northerncoast of Chile. He thereby could show for the first time a clear manifestation of the decadal variability in the Southern Oscillation in temperature data series. He reported these in a paper presented during the EGU-CIIFEN First Alexander von Humboldt International Conference on El Niño, Guayaquil/Ecuador, May 16-20, 2005 Decadal Variability in the Southern Oscillation and long-term Climatic Trends: Air Temperature in northern Chile. Patricio Aceituno is not only an outstanding Meteorologist who significantly contributed to the understanding of ENSO and its predictability, but also a scientist who vigorously communicated his findings in the international scientific literature. Out of more than 25 scientific papers in peer reviewed journals, 14 are published in English in international journals, such as J.G.R., J.Climate, Int.J.of Climatology, Mon. Wea. Rev., and Agricultural Meteorology. This is remarkable given the fact that most South American scientists publish in Spanish in their national journals.
All in all I think that Patricio Aceituno is just the right person who deserves being awarded the first Alexander von Humboldt Medal.