Geology & Geophysics AGU News

Barnes and Merlis Receive 2014 James R. Holton Junior Scientist Awards

Elizabeth A. Barnes and Timothy M. Merlis received 2014 James R. Holton Junior Scientist Awards at the 2014 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, held 15–19 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes "outstanding research contributions by a junior atmospheric scientist within three years of his or her Ph.D."


Citation for Elizabeth A. Barnes

Elizabeth A. Barnes
Elizabeth A. Barnes

The Atmospheric Sciences section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) awards the 2014 James R. Holton Junior Scientist Award to Elizabeth A. Barnes. Dr. Barnes is an assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Colorado State University. She has already made major contributions to our understanding of midlatitude atmospheric circulation. Although receiving her Ph.D. only 2 years ago, at the time of her nomination she had published 23 papers in high-quality journals and was the lead author on 18 of them.

Elizabeth “Libby” Barnes’s accomplishments can best be described by quoting from her nomination letters. “I cannot think of a more deserving candidate among her peers. She is an extraordinarily good scientist. … The amazing fact is this: the quality of her scientific work matches the quantity.” “Bottom line: Libby Barnes is spectacularly good. I have no doubt she will become a major force in atmospheric and climate science in the next decade. … She is destined for greatness.”

“The diversity of Dr. Barnes’ research interests and skills is impressive, particularly for someone so early in their career. She is equally adept at working with observations and numerical models. She has used both a barotropic model and the dynamical core of a GCM to great effect in her research, and has considerable expertise in the analysis and diagnosis of observations. She is widely sought for and gives very clear presentations. Her physical arguments are lucid and her papers are clearly written. Dr. Barnes is a ‘star’ junior scientist by any measure. She is highly productive, very well known, and has already made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the climate system.”

For these reasons, the AGU Atmospheric Sciences section is proud to award the 2014 Holton Award to Elizabeth A. Barnes.

—Alan Robock, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.


I wish to begin by simply saying thank you.

It is an honor to receive this award, but even more so, a humbling experience. I must admit I was surprised to have even been nominated, let alone to have received this award. I suppose that is why one does not nominate oneself!

While there are many people who have helped me along the way, I wish to explicitly express my gratitude to a few key people who supported and guided my enthusiasm for science over the past decade or so: Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, for giving me the opportunity to explore a whole new world of questions; Julia Slingo, for providing me with my very first look at atmospheric science; Dennis Hartmann, for many things, but especially for consistently setting the bar one rung higher than was comfortable while continuing to nurture my scientific development; Lorenzo Polvani, for showing me how to ask interesting questions; and Arlene Fiore, for putting up with me, a dynamicist, while I tried to learn a little bit of chemistry.

Although I received my Ph.D. from the University of Washington, where Jim Holton was a professor for 38 years, I never had the honor of meeting him. I am told he was a wonderful mentor and teacher, and it is, of course, evident that he was also an outstanding scientist. It goes without saying that it is an incredible honor to receive this award bearing his name.

—Elizabeth Barnes, Colorado State University, Fort Collins


Citation for Timothy M. Merlis

Timothy M. Merlis
Timothy M. Merlis

The Atmospheric Sciences section of AGU awards the 2014 James R. Holton Junior Scientist Award to Timothy M. Merlis. Dr. Merlis is an assistant professor at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Dr. Merlis is an atmospheric and climate dynamicist who works on baroclinic instability, the dynamics of extrasolar planets, tropical circulation, volcanic eruptions, and global hurricane frequency.

Timothy Merlis’s accomplishments can best be described by quoting from his nomination letters. “Tim Merlis ranks at or very near the top of his age group in atmospheric science. His contributions to date are first-rate and are among the very best papers in our field over the last decade. His work is marked by an excellent choice of questions to pose and issues to address, a meticulous but creative approach to addressing these issues, and a clear and effective writing and speaking style. He is both broad and deep.” “Tim is the best recent graduate in atmosphere/ocean physics I know. His versatility and familiarity both with large-scale dynamics and mesoscale dynamics is unmatched by anyone else I know at a similar career stage.”

“The common thread to all of his papers is his extraordinary ability to isolate simple physical mechanisms within very complex dynamical systems. In most cases, he has done so by performing elegant numerical simulations with idealized models.” “The breadth of his research interests, together with his desire to tackle fundamental questions, his rigorous thinking, his creativity and originality, all make Tim a truly exceptional young scientist, who promises to be an intellectual leader in his generation.”

For these reasons, the AGU Atmospheric Sciences section is proud to award the 2014 Holton Award to Timothy Merlis.

—Alan Robock, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N. J.


I am grateful to receive the AGU Atmospheric Science section’s James R. Holton Junior Scientist Award. It is excellent to receive the award in the same years as Elizabeth Barnes, whose research I admire.

This is a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the support from which I have benefited greatly. My advisers, Tapio Schneider and Isaac Held, have played an invaluable role in my development. The time I spent as a Ph.D. student with Tapio was truly exceptional. Beyond his scientific insights, Tapio guided my growth in all aspects of the profession. I am deeply appreciative of Isaac’s thoughtful scientific advising. It has been wonderful to discuss a wide range of ideas with him.

I am grateful to the group of early career scientists with whom I have had the opportunity to extensively discuss research and other important topics. I treasure interacting with Paul O’Gorman, Simona Bordoni, Yohai Kaspi, Ian Eisenman, Xavier Levine, Gretchen Keppel-Aleks, Nicole Feldl, and others. I also thank the senior scientists who have generously spent time supporting me: Adam Sobel, George Philander, and Kerry Emanuel, among others.

Last, I thank Shanon Fitzpatrick and the rest of my family.

—Timothy M. Merlis, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Citation: AGU (2015), Barnes and Merlis receive 2014 James R. Holton Junior Scientist Awards, Eos, 96, doi:10.1029/2015EO026923. Published on 26 March 2015.

© 2015. The authors. CC BY-NC 3.0