Jan Lenaerts, recipient of the 2017 Cryosphere Early Career Award.
Jan Lenaerts

Advances in computer modeling of cryospheric and polar systems are enabling our field to confidently predict past, present, and future conditions, thereby informing scientific studies, policy, and future planning. Jan Lenaerts’s meticulous, diligent, and diverse efforts in the field of modeling have led to major improvements in understanding the surface mass balance of ice sheets. Jan’s work has allowed complex and necessary processes to be implemented in models, including wind redistribution of snow, meltwater fluxes, cloud properties, and snow densification.

Jan received his Ph.D., cum laude, in polar meteorology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands in 2013, where his work advanced our knowledge and modeling capabilities for wind redistribution of snow in Antarctica and Greenland. This work included novel field measurements of blowing snow, used in a way that strengthen connections between field measurements and modeling. Since then, Jan has expanded his work, becoming an expert on Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, global and regional models, and land and atmospheric physics. This work has led to multiple high-impact journal articles, ranging from cloud radiative properties to meltwater retention in snow, and compelling scientific communication, including a well-received TEDx talk.

In 2017, Jan brought his expertise to the University of Colorado, where he continues to advance his work as cochair of the Community Earth System Model (CESM) land–ice working group. Acknowledging Jan’s leadership and efforts, Dr. William Lipscomb at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) states that “Thanks largely to Jan…CESM is poised to become the world’s premier modeling tool for studying ice sheet surface mass balance variability and change.” Jan’s work with CESM highlights not only his scientific skill but also his strong commitment to the cryospheric and atmospheric communities and unselfish cooperation in his research.

Jan exemplifies AGU’s core values in his collaborative work, claiming a diverse set of coauthors, ranging from students to senior scientists. His contributions as a world-renowned modeler, collaborative scientist, and scientific communicator set him apart among his colleagues, and inspire us. With this recognition, we thank Jan for his commitment to improving global and regional models and look forward to his future scientific achievements.

—Lora Koenig, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado Boulder


Thank you, Lora, and the nomination committee, for your kind words, and thanks to my colleagues who put this nomination together. While I am deeply honored to receive the Cryosphere Early Career Award, I do not consider it a solely personal recognition; rather, I would like to dedicate it to the collaborative science I have been involved in throughout recent years. The dynamic working environment at the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (IMAU) at Utrecht University has enabled me to develop my own research path. In that regard, special thanks go to my Ph.D. mentor, Prof. Michiel van den Broeke, who unconditionally shared his wide network in cryospheric sciences, enabling me and my fellow IMAU students (thanks all!) to become part of international, multidisciplinary research teams such as the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise (IMBIE), Ice2Sea, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I thoroughly enjoyed the years of (trying to) improve the RACMO2 model and (trying to) convince the cryocommunity that it works well but that it is definitely not perfect—and will never be. Getting into contact with the multitude of disciplines within the glaciological community not only allowed me to combine field observations, remote sensing data, and model output but also offered great friendship along the way. Joining the CESM community has been, and still is, a wonderful experience and demonstrates the power of building a shared, collaborative tool across multiple interests and disciplines. This award strengthens my personal motivation to continue my work to understand the climate of Earth’s ice sheets and, fueled by the current political climate, to reach out to the general public and the next generation of climate scientists.

—Jan Lenaerts, University of Colorado Boulder


(2017), Lenaerts receives 2017 Cryosphere Early Career Award, Eos, 98, Published on 20 October 2017.

Text © 2017. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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