Geology & Geophysics AGU News

Peng and Van der Wiel Receive the 2017 James R. Holton Award

Jianfei Peng and Karin van der Wiel will receive the 2017 James R. Holton Award at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award recognizes “outstanding scientific research and accomplishments by early-career scientists” who are “no more than three years past the award of the Ph.D. degree.”


Citation for Jianfei Peng

Jianfei Peng, recipient of the 2017 James R. Holton Award.
Jianfei Peng

Jianfei Peng is awarded the James R. Holton Award for his innovative studies of aerosol aging, including the aging of black carbon.

Dr. Peng is mainly known for his experimental work examining a wide variety of aerosol issues. At the time of his nomination, he had already written 20 peer-reviewed articles in high impact, top-tier journals. One important paper elucidates the formation mechanisms for haze in Beijing, China, via two distinct processes governed by meteorology. Another examines severe haze formation due to sulfur during the 1952 London fog events as well as in China. Probably his most influential work was explaining the rapid timescale of aging for black carbon, which, when implemented in climate studies, leads to an improved evaluation of the direct radiative forcing of black carbon, thereby closing the gap between model predictions and observations of the effect of black carbon aerosols on climate.

As noted in his nomination letter, Peng’s “work is clearly distinguished from those of his peers in terms of its breakthrough nature and societal significance,” and a supporter writes, “His scientific record is truly impressive, not only in terms of the quantity but also the quality and impacts of his publications. Few junior faculty and scientists have achieved so much at such early stage of their career.”

On behalf of the AGU Atmospheric Sciences section, I am pleased to present the 2017 James R. Holton Award to Dr. Jianfei Peng.

—Joyce E. Penner, President, Atmospheric Sciences Section, AGU


It is truly a great honor for me to be selected as the 2017 James R. Holton Award honoree. I was very humbled when I knew I will receive such an award and would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Atmospheric Sciences section of AGU and the members of the award committee.

I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the people from whom I have benefited greatly. I am truly grateful to Renyi Zhang, who shares his insightful understanding in atmospheric sciences as well as his enthusiasm and passion, and provides me the platform and opportunity in my early scientific career. My deepest appreciation also goes to my thesis adviser, Min Hu, who is a wonderful mentor and has been providing constant support to me in the past 10 years. I would like to thank Limin Zeng, Song Guo, Zhijun Wu, Min Shao, and Yuanhang Zhang at Peking University (PKU) for their guidance on my research, and to thank Shijin Shuai, Zhanqing Li, Charles E. Kolb, and Mattias Hallquist for the encouragement and opportunities they provided. My gratitude is also extended to all my friends and colleagues at PKU and Texas A&M University, whom I am fortunate enough to work with. And, of course, I thank my family for their unconditional support through all of this.

I never thought I could win an award named after a person as exceptional as James Holton was. This award is truly an incredible inspiration to my scientific life. I will live up to the scientific excellence that this award embodies.

—Jianfei Peng, Texas A&M University, College Station


Citation for Karin van der Wiel

Karin van der Wiel, recipient of the 2017 James R. Holton Award.
Karin van der Wiel

Karin van der Wiel is awarded the James R. Holton Award for her creative studies of climate extremes, in particular, those involving precipitation.

Dr. van der Wiel has distinguished herself by her ability to combine modeling with observations in new ways to explain various atmospheric phenomena. She began her career by studying the tropical dynamics related to the diagonal subtropical convergence zones of the Southern Hemisphere, developing a theory to explain why the South Pacific and Atlantic convergence zones are diagonal, the origin of their location and strength, and how they influence Rossby wave propagation. She then looked at extreme precipitation. She brought new insight into the fundamentals of our ability to model extreme precipitation in global climate models and how the field should interpret and test trends in observed and modeled precipitation extremes. She has brought an enthusiasm and creativity that is far beyond other scientists at a similar place in their careers. Her research has been picked up by the general press, and she has adeptly responded to their requests for information as well as to requests from governmental sources.

A statement in her supporting letter best summarizes Dr. van der Wiel’s research talents: “She amazed her supervisors with her insight into dynamical meteorology, theoretical and technical skills, and her ability to clearly communicate the main issues she was working on and always see the big picture. Her rate of progress was astounding.”

On behalf of the AGU Atmospheric Sciences section, I am pleased to present the 2017 James R. Holton Award to Dr. Karin van der Wiel.

—Joyce E. Penner, President, Atmospheric Sciences Section, AGU


It is a great honor to have been selected as one of the recipients of the award for junior atmospheric scientists this year. I would like to thank AGU, the Atmospheric Sciences awards committee, and those who put together my nomination. Seeing the somewhat daunting list of previous winners, I feel humbled yet excited to be at this stage in my scientific journey.

I was first introduced to atmospheric dynamics by means of James R. Holton’s textbook; it has served as an encyclopedia ever since. Receiving an award that bears his name is a recognition I never expected to receive.

One of the privileges of starting a (my) scientific career is that one gets to meet many inspiring people from around the world. I have been very lucky to have met, learned from, and sometimes worked with many passionate, smart, and kind people. All my accomplishments are a direct result of these interactions, and I would not be where I am today without the support of this community.

In particular, I would like to thank Adrian Matthews for his guidance and encouragement during my Ph.D.; also, David Stevens and Manoj Joshi; Gabriel Vecchi for his support over the years and all advice offered; and, finally, Sarah Kapnick for her mentorship. I feel empowered through knowing her.

I hope to be able to continue working in the atmospheric science field for many more years and eventually return as much as I have received from the scientific community.

—Karin van der Wiel, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, De Bilt

Citation: AGU (2017), Peng and Van der Wiel receive the 2017 James R. Holton Award, Eos, 98, Published on 19 October 2017.
© 2017. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0