Richard Alley to receive first annual Stephen Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication


Richard Alley

Penn State University glaciologist Richard B. Alley is the winner of the initial Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication, administered by Climate One, a sustainability initiative of the nonprofit Commonwealth Club of California. “It is humbling to receive this award in his honor,” Prof. Alley said. Steve Schneider was irreplaceable, one of a kind. But Prof. Alley is an outstanding scientist and public educator and deserving of this recognition.

The award was announced August 26 to those of us in attendance at the Stephen H. Schneider Symposium, “Climate Change: from Science to Policy,” held in Boulder, Colorado last week.

From the Climate One press release:

First Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication Bestowed Upon Richard Alley

August 29, San Francisco – Climate One at The Commonwealth Club announced today that Penn  State scientist Dr. Richard B. Alley will be awarded the first annual Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication. The $10,000 award is given to a natural or social scientist who has made extraordinary scientific contributions and communicated that knowledge to a broad public in a clear and compelling fashion. The award was established this year in honor of Stephen Henry Schneider, one of the founding fathers of climatology who died suddenly in 2010.

The award jurors are Professor Larry Goulder (Chair of the Economics Department, Stanford University), Dr. Ben Santer (Climate Researcher, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), and Bud Ward (Editor, The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media). The jury solicited nominations from a broad spectrum of anonymous experts in the fields of science and communication. The jury unanimously decided that Dr. Richard B. Alley exemplifies the rare ability to be both a superb scientist and superior communicator in the mold of Stephen Schneider.

In choosing Dr. Alley, juror Ben Santer said “Richard’s research has been directed toward  answering a key question about climate change – how fast and how high will sea levels rise, and what can past climates tell us about the sea level changes we might expect to see over the 21st century.”

Regarding Dr. Alley’s communication prowess, juror Bud Ward recalled a Congressional hearing where Dr. Alley used his bald head to illustrate ice age cycles. “It was a moment of Schneider-like brilliance,” Ward said, noting that Dr. Alley also recorded several YouTube videos explaining scientific principles while strumming guitar to a Johnny Cash song and playing piano to a Billy Joel tune.

“Stephen Schneider was hugely successful at making science useful to the public so it is humbling to receive this award in his honor,” said Richard Alley, Evan Pugh professor of geosciences, Penn State.

Dr. Richard Alley will be presented the award in San Francisco on Tuesday, December 6th at The Commonwealth Club of California. The award is underwritten by the ClimateWorks Foundation and energy entrepreneur Michael Haas.

Dr. Richard B. Alley

Dr. Richard B. Alley is the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences and Associate of  the EMS Environment Institute at Pennsylvania  State University, University Park, Pennsylvania. He is host of “Earth: The Operators’ Manual,” a three-part documentary that is nationally televised on PBS, and has also authored a book under the same title and most recently co-authored The Fate of Greenland: Lessons from Abrupt Climate Change with Philip  Conkling, Wallace Broecker, and George Denton. Professor Alley teaches and  conducts research on the paleoclimatic records, dynamics, and sedimentary  deposits of large ice sheets, as a means of understanding the climate system and its history, and projecting future changes in climate and sea level. Dr. Alley has spent three field seasons in Antarctica and five in Greenland. His book on  abrupt climate change, The Two-Mile Time Machine, was the national Phi Beta Kappa Science Award winner for 2001. Dr. Alley chaired a recent National  Research Council study on Abrupt Climate Change, and serves, or has served, on many other advisory panels and steering committees. He received his Ph.D. in geology, with a minor in materials science, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1987, and earned an MSc degree (1983) and BSc degree (1980) in geology from the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. In 2008, Dr. Alley was elected to the  National Academy of Sciences.

Stephen Schneider’s work is being chronicled at the new website

Also see posts on Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media:

Penn State Glaciologist Richard Alley First Winner of $10,000 Schneider Award

The Fate of Greenland: Exceptional Storytelling, Extraordinary Photography

Earlier CSW posts:

Richard Alley PBS special on climate change and sustainable energy debuts April 10

House Science Committee: one last ‘rational’ climate science hearing?

Stephen Schneider Climate Change Symposium

Richard Alley photo source: Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media

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One Response to Richard Alley to receive first annual Stephen Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication

  1. caerbannog says:

    I saw the video of Dr. Alley using his bald spot to try to educate Rep. Dana Rohrabacher about Milankovitch cycles; it was a wonderful effort on Dr. Alley’s part, but unfortunately quite futile — he may as well have been trying to teach algebra to a cow.

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