The 2016 Louis Agassiz Medal is awarded to Thierry Fichefet for outstanding engagement and development of the state-of-the-art Louvain-la-Neuve sea ice model.
Over the last 30 years, Thierry Fichefet has led a team of collaborators developing the state-of-the-art Louvain-la-Neuve sea ice model (LIM), which is a reference in the community of climatologists and oceanographers. He has thus been recognised as a world leader in sea ice modelling. He has continuously paid attention to focusing those developments on what his colleagues in the observational field identified as crucial components to be included in a realistic sea ice model, such as having ice thickness categories, finite elements with adaptive grid, brine movement and alt transport processes, among others. This has led to the implementation of one of the world’s best sea-ice models. In addition, he generously distributes the code and supports its use. Although the core of his work is in sea ice, he has produced important work at the interface between the cryosphere and the ocean. He has also contributed to the development of Earth system models of various levels of complexity. His team was the first to quantify the influence of a greenhouse-gas-induced melting of the Greenland ice sheet on the oceanic thermohaline circulation and climate over the next millennia. He was also a lead author of the Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). His rigour in the approach of model evaluation, analysing processes in detail, proposing new ways of electing the adequate models for a particular purpose has set the basis for the future in this domain. For his achievements, Fichefet already received the recognition of his pairs. He is a member of the Academia Europaea and was awarded the Adolphe Wetrems Prize 2004 (Mathematical and Physical Sciences) of the Classe des Sciences de l’Académie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-arts de Belgique and the Gérard Mégie Prize 2008 of the Académies des Sciences of the Institut de France. Fichefet conducts his research in a way that promotes the careers of his students and post docs first – a strong theme in all of his work. It is no coincidence that past members of his team populate every major modelling centre in Europe. Fichefet’s work is important in making sure that assessments of our future (and our past) take proper account of the role of the cryosphere. The role of taking glaciological knowledge and turning it into a component of an interactive climate model is central to making sure that glaciology is of societal use. Thierry Fichefet has been one of the finest leaders of such work, and it is fitting that the EGU acknowledge this with this medal.