PROJECT: STOCKHOLM WATER PRIZE2022: Professor Emeritus Wilfried Brutsaert

Professor Emeritus Wilfried Brutsaert is named Stockholm Water Prize Laureate 2022 for groundbreaking work to quantify environmental evaporation. His innovative approach has helped improve climate modeling and tools that assess how much water that is available.

2022 SWP Laureate Wilfried BrutsaertCredit: Cornell University

On 22 March it was announced that Professor Emeritus Wilfried Brutsaert is the 2022 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate. In its citation, the Stockholm Water Prize Nominating Committee says: Professor Brutsaert is a top hydrologist and a leader in land-atmosphere coupling research. His innovative works on Evaporation and Hydrology are of lasting theoretical and practical importance, particularly in view of climate change. In addition, Wilfried Brutsaert has pioneered novel approaches to understanding changes in groundwater storage. For his outstanding contributions, Wilfried Brutsaert is awarded the 2022 Stockholm Water Prize.

Wilfried Brutsaert is Professor in Engineering Emeritus at Cornell University, USA. To many hydrologists, he is however known as Mr Evaporation since he is one of the most outstanding experts on the topic.

Terrestrial evaporation is a fundamental aspect of the water cycle but very difficult to measure. It was therefore an important breakthrough when Professor Brutsaert found new ways to estimate evaporation and its impact on Earth’s energy balance. His theoretical approach opened for the further development of measuring technologies, both remote sensing and terrestrial observations, to assess evaporation. This is also important for climate modeling and our understanding of the effect that climate change has on the water cycle.

In particular, the work of Professor Brutsaert has helped improve local predictions of whether there will be more or less evaporation, and thus indirectly more or less precipitation. More than anyone else, he has contributed to improving our understanding of local terrestrial feedbacks. Scientists have found it much more difficult to make predictions at a local scale compared to globally because local terrestrial feedbacks are harder to estimate. Professor Brutsaert’s contributions in this field have therefore led to significant breakthroughs. These are especially valuable for local communities who need to be able to predict the various impacts of climate change on their local water supply and water resources.

Wilfried Brutsaert has also pioneered creative methodologies to understand changes in groundwater storage, another central aspect of the water cycle. Here, too, he has been able to contribute new knowledge on how the water cycle is impacted by global warming, including research on how groundwater is impacted in thawing permafrost regions. The work of Wilfried Brutsaert has greatly advanced the scientific understanding of the water cycle but is also of fundamental importance to practical water management.

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More about Wilfried Brutsaert

Title: William L. Lewis Professor in Engineering Emeritus at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University, USA. 

Background: Born in Ghent, Belgium, in 1934. Moved to the USA to obtain a Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis.  

Career: In 1962 Wilfried Brutsaert joined the faculty of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University where he stayed for more than 50 years. During shorter sabbaticals, he has however also worked in Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and China. 

Wilfried Brutsaert’s work covers a broad range of topics related to hydrology and fluid mechanics in the environment, but he is most well-known for his groundbreaking work on evaporation and groundwater storage.  

Publications: Wilfried Brutsaert is the author and co-author of more than 200 refereed articles in scientific journals as well as two seminal books Evaporation into the Atmosphere (Springer) and the broader Hydrology: An Introduction (Cambridge). 

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