The 2017 Vening Meinesz Medal is awarded to Isabella Velicogna in recognition of her pioneering and groundbreaking work on the application of time-variable gravity for ice-sheet mass balance and land-water hydrology studies.
Isabella Velicogna is an exemplary scholar who has made groundbreaking contributions to geodesy and remote sensing. The body, versatility, and quality of her work is highly unique, and has not only profoundly impacted the field of geodesy, but has found widespread application and use in the cryosphere and sea level rise communities. Ice sheets are major contributors to present-day sea level rise and their mass loss represents the largest uncertainty in sea level rise projections. Velicogna’s research group pioneered and developed the use of time series of gravity data from the GRACE mission to calculate ice sheet mass changes. Her group obtained the first modern and comprehensive estimates of mass balance in Antarctica in 2006 and showed in 2009 that the rate of mass loss is increasing with time. Her work has been featured extensively in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment where she also served as a contributing author. She has been selected as the time-variable gravity leader for the NASA/ESA Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise 2, which regroups the world experts in ice sheet mass balance processes. Velicogna’s research group also made breakthrough contributions in the utilisation of time variable gravity to detect changes in groundwater storage in India. She is now applying similar approaches to study land water hydrology in the high Arctic. Her group is breaking new grounds on calculating the sea level fingerprints of melting glaciers and ice sheets, and changes in land water hydrology, to study their impact on the spatial and temporal patterns of regional sea level rise. In summary, Velicogna has propelled geodesy and remote sensing to new discoveries, and her outstanding contributions merit recognition by EGU’s Vening Meinesz Medal.