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2007 News Releases



Rafael Bras to receive AGU’s Horton Medal

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The American Geophysical Union will award Professor Rafael Bras the 2007 Robert E. Horton Medal at a ceremony in December, the AGU announced. An internationally recognized researcher in hydrology and hydroclimatology whose work encompasses many aspects of the Earth’s water cycle, Bras is being recognized for his contributions to the geophysical aspects of hydrology. The Horton Medal is the highest award given to hydrologists by geophysicists.

Bras is the Edward A. Abdun-Nur Professor holding appointments in MIT’s Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. He is the 2007 director of Terrascope, an alternative freshman-year program at MIT. He was head of the CEE department from 1991 to 2001.

“It means a lot to follow so many giants,” said Bras, when he learned he would receive the Horton Medal. “And it means a lot to be recognized by an organization I hold dear to my heart, since it has played such an important role in my life. After 30-plus years, I can honestly say that I never get tired of working in this field, largely because of the people, and in particular, the students.”

Bras is known for his work in flood forecasting and distributed hydrologic modeling, remote sensing and modeling of precipitation and soil moisture, for his research on the fractal organization and geometry of river basins, for his models of the evolution of river basins, for studies of the impact of deforestation in the Amazon River basin and most recently for his work on how vegetation, hydrology, climate and landscapes evolve together.

Since 1995 he has chaired a panel of international experts that oversees the development of the systems of barriers being built to protect the city if Venice, Italy, against flooding during unusually high tides in the Adriatic Sea. This 4.5 billion euros project is scheduled for completion in 2012.

Next May during the Environmental and Water Resources Institute meeting in Hawaii, Bras also will receive the Simon W. Freese Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) “for advancing the theory and practice of hydrologic sciences, including hydrometeorology and hydroclimatology.” This is the highest environmental recognition for environmental work by ASCE.

At the same he will be presented with an Honorary Diplomate from the American Academy of Water Resources Engineers, an honor held by only 14 other individuals, for his “demonstrated advanced expertise in water resources engineering, extensive experience, strong ethics, and commitment to lifelong professional development.”

Rafael Bras