Centre for Global Change Science | University of Toronto | Toronto, Canada
For fundamental advances in the understanding of Earth Systems, by demonstrating profound interconnections between surface climate variability, as evidenced in the hydrosphere and cryosphere, and the internal properties and dynamics of the solid Earth.
2010 Bower Science Award Theme: Earth Systems
Modern climate science demands the fusion of a vast array of subjects, from how the earth's interior fluids move, to the dynamics of the ocean, to the way the sea interacts with the atmosphere. It depends on scientists with a broad range of interests and a deep knowledge base. No one has shown that diversity better than Richard Peltier. Combining work on the life cycle of glaciers, the movement of the earth's mantle, and the history of the earth's climate, his research has led to profound insights on the mechanics of climate cycles. Peltier has been at the forefront of "earth systems science"—a revolution in earth science that insists the earth and its climate are understandable only through cross-disciplinary research.
Peltier was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. He earned his B.Sc. from the University of British Columbia in 1967, and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, graduating in 1971. Peltier credits a postdoctoral year at the University of Colorado with developing the mathematical and physical insights that have powered much of his research. He has been teaching at the University of Toronto since 1973, now as University Professor and Director of the Centre for Global Change Science.
Peltier's earliest research success was in studying how the shape and surface of the earth, including sea level, change in response to glacial change. His work has offered profound insights into the physics of ice-earth-ocean interactions throughout the ages (Peltier has worked out accurate models of topography and ice distribution for the last 20,000 years) and has immediate impact on our understanding of sea level rise due to global warming. Peltier has also studied the viscosity of the deep earth—knowledge crucial to explaining how heat is brought to the surface, leading to plate tectonics and, indeed, life on earth. Peltier also researches the fluid mechanics of the atmosphere and oceans, aiding the understanding of the air-sea interface.
Peltier's many awards include the GSA's Kirk Bryan Award, the Canadian Geophysical Union's J. Tuzo Wilson Medal, the Vetlesen Prize, the Canadian Association of Physicists. Gold Medal for Achievement in Physics, and the Royal Society of Canada's Bancroft Award and Miroslaw Romanowski Medal.
Information as of April 2010