30-year collaboration earns UW climatologist China’s top science honor

 University of Wisconsin–Madison climatologist John Kutzbach has been awarded China’s highest scientific honor for foreigners in recognition of 30 years of collaboration that has advanced both American and Chinese climate science.

John Kutzbach with Chinese Embassy
John Kutzbach, UW–Madison climatologist and professor emeritus, received China’s top scientific honor for foreigners in a ceremony at the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy John Kutzbach

Kutzbach, an emeritus professor of atmospheric, oceanic and environmental sciences and the former director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies Center for Climatic Research, received the International Science and Technological Cooperation Award in a ceremony at the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. in May.

The scientific collaboration that led to this award began in 1987, when Kutzbach was approached by Chinese geologist and geochemist An Zhisheng about his work studying prehistoric shifts of monsoons in the region. An invited Kutzbach to study the Xi’an loess, where wisps of dust sweeping across the Tibetan plateau settled in thin layers over millions of years, embedding subtle information about ancient climates in the sediment.

“It’s like the pages of a book,” says Kutzbach. “As the sediments accumulate, they also reflect the climate of the time when they were formed.”

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