The 2010 Louis Agassiz Medal is awarded to Hajo Eicken for his outstanding contribution to the study of the physical and biological properties of sea ice through a combination of novel experimental techniques and theory.
Hajo Eicken has initiated and pioneered a wide spectrum of innovative field and laboratory studies of sea ice, in particular focused on the importance of redistribution of surface meltwater in sea ice. His highly original work has, for instance, used fluorescent tracers in boreholes to monitor water transport through Arctic summer sea ice, thus enhancing measurably the understanding of the evolution of the summer melt, particularly the development of melt-ponds. This research has spawned improved efforts to better represent processes related to sea-ice melting in numerical models.
Eicken has gained considerable familiarity with measurement techniques from a variety of geophysical fields which he has introduced to the study of sea ice. His 2006 study on capacitance probe measurements of brine volume in first-year sea ice presents such a novel approach to measuring sea-ice salinity in situ. This parameter is crucial for the realistic simulation of the future evolution of sea ice. Not content, however, with migrating techniques into his own research, he has brought scientists from other cognate fields to experience Arctic conditions and learn about sea ice and field methods so that, for example, climate modellers may better appreciate the problems of data collection and parametrisation.
Eicken’s studies have not been limited to the strictly geophysical aspects of sea ice. His highly cited 2004 study on bacterial activity in Arctic wintertime sea ice has increased by a long way our understanding of sea ice biology.
In addition to prosecuting his own research Eicken has also been recognised as a key collaborator in and providing leadership to a number of community research projects. For example, he co-chairs the ongoing SEARCH sea-ice outlook. He is also a lead participant in several important publication initiatives. His current work is as the lead editor on a field handbook for sea-ice research and as Selection Editor to the EGU-journal Cryosphere.
Eicken has dedicated time and effort to stimulating and supporting the next generation of sea ice scientists and his mentoring has been inspirational for many students and early career researchers. His annual field work at Barrow, Alaska is frequently supported by and forms the basis for experiential development of students.