The first-year American Geophysical Union climate communications prize goes to NASA/GISS and RealClimate scientist Gavin Schmidt.

NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, the “driving force” behind realclimate.org, is the winner of the American Geophysical Union’s first Climate Communications Prize, which carries with it a cash award of $25,000.

Schmidt worked with photographer Joshua Wolfe in 2009 to co-edit Climate Change: Picturing the Science, with articles by him and other scientists. A statement from Columbia University’s Earth Institute, which is affiliated with NASA/GISS, said the realclimate website is ranked the fifth most popular science blog in the world and is “the top-ranked one on climate.”

The Columbia Earth Institute statement said Schmidt “is often called upon by the media to provide a scientist’s perspective on climate studies and issues, and has become a seasoned commentator, making appearances in newspapers, TV, radio and magazines. In addition to straight commentary, he has shown himself willing to do more offbeat appearances, such as a David Letterman Show comedy segment that made gentle fun of climate scientists.”

According to the Columbia Earth Institute release, Schmidt’s nominators had characterized him as “an articulate, rigorous and resolute defender of research and the scientific method …. providing a scientific context that is sometimes missing in the mainstream media …. There is no other scientist with the combination of intellect, agility and plain-speaking sensibility than Gavin Schmidt, who educates, not alienates, the public.”

Schmidt recently expressed some of his attitudes on climate scientists as communicators at a presentation sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Department of Soil, Water, and Climate.  His views are summarized  in an article by Mary Hoff of the university’s Institute on the Environment.

Schmidt is to accept the AGU award during the organization’s annual meeting in San Francisco in early December. Accepting a separate climate science communications award during that same December 4-9 week in San Francisco is Penn State University geologist Richard B. Alley, winner of the first annual Stephen H. Schneider memorial award for effective climate science communications. Alley recently also was chosen a Heinz Family Foundation $100,000 award winner.

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