Walter Gonzalez, the Space Weather and Nonlinear Waves and Processes Prize.
Walter Gonzalez

The 2017 Space Weather and Nonlinear Waves and Processes Prize has been awarded to Dr. Walter Gonzalez of the Brazilian Space Research Institute (INPE) by the AGU Space Physics and Aeronomy section and the Nonlinear Geophysics focus group. Dr. Gonzalez has been a longtime leader in space weather research and related international collaboration.

Walter conducted early pioneering work on magnetic reconnection with Prof. Forrest Mozer. Reconnection is the fundamental process that largely governs the interaction between the solar wind and the magnetosphere. This work has been essential to the development of various coupling functions that try to quantify the energy transfer from the solar wind to the magnetosphere.

Walter is best known for his work on magnetic storms. His 1994 Journal of Geophysical Research paper “What is a geomagnetic storm?” is a seminal work. Many of Walter’s other papers quantified the solar wind input that leads to magnetic storms and the interplanetary origin of those features. Among these contributions is work done with Bruce Tsurutani that identified the effect on the magnetosphere of large-amplitude Alfvén wave trains in high-speed streams. Another paper is the first modern analysis of the great magnetic storm of 1859, the Carrington Event, which is the largest magnetic storm on record and the presumed upper limit for the most extreme space weather event that can befall our civilization. Walter has also been a leader in international collaboration in the study of magnetic storms and reconnection, organizing many workshops on these topics.

His contributions to the study of space weather extending over 40 years make him exceptionally well suited to receive this award.

—Ramon E. Lopez, University of Texas at Arlington


I am greatly honored to receive the 2017 AGU Space Weather and Nonlinear Waves and Processes Prize. I would like to thank the related AGU award committee as well as my nominator, Dr. Ramon Lopez, and supporters for this award. Dr. Lopez is a brilliant space physicist who has strongly contributed to many important areas of space research, especially in magnetospheric physics.

For the two main topics of magnetospheric research related to space weather in which I have worked, magnetopause reconnection and magnetic storms, I would like to especially acknowledge the contribution of Prof. Forrest Mozer of UC Berkeley (my Ph.D. thesis adviser) and of Dr. Bruce Tsurutani of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Prof. Mozer’s insight and experimental support were crucial for the elaboration of our first quantitative model on component reconnection at the magnetopause. Similarly, the important and extensive contribution of Dr. Tsurutani in our joint work on magnetic storms over the years has resulted in many achievements toward the definition and development of research in space weather.

I would also like to thank Prof. Vytenis Vasyliunas of the Max Planck Institute, Prof. Yoshuke Kamide of Nagoya University, Prof. Eugene Parker of Chicago University, and Dr. David Sibeck of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for their encouragement and help.

Finally, I would like to give especial thanks to my wife, Dr. Alicia Gonzalez, and to the other research members of the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research for their important contributions during my research career.

—Walter Gonzalez, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, São Paulo, Brazil


(2017), Gonzalez receives 2017 Space Weather and Nonlinear Waves and Processes Prize, Eos, 98, Published on 13 November 2017.

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