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Natural Hazards

Gaius Plinius Secundus and Sergey Soloviev, two names and awards.

Gaius Plinius Secundus and Sergey Soloviev, two names and awards.

The EGU has an award system in place aiming at recognising eminent scientists for their outstanding contribution in Earth, planetary and space science. There are different medals a researcher can be nominated to, including Division ones. Ah, before I forget: the deadline for this year nominations is 15 June! Don’t miss the chance to appoint an outstanding colleague. You can find more information on how to nominate candidates clicking on the EGU website.

The medals for the Division of Natural Hazard are two. One aims at recognising interdisciplinary natural-hazard research of scientists meeting the following criteria: outstanding research achievements in fields related with natural hazards, important interdisciplinary activity in two or more areas related with this topic, and research that has been applied in the mitigation of risks from natural hazards. This medal is named after Gaius Plinius Secundus. The second aims at awarding outstanding scientific contributions in fundamental research that improves our knowledge of basic natural hazards principles, as well as research that assesses and leads to the proper mitigation of natural hazards, from both human and environmental perspectives. This medal is named after Sergey Soloviev.

The medal has been exclusively designed for the EGU by the artist József Kótai.

Gaius Plinius Secundus (⁓23 – 79 A.D.) also called Pliny the Elder was a Roman military officer as well as a naturalist, an author and among the first encyclopedists. One of his most famous work is ‘Naturalis Historia’ (Natural History), a laborious collection of observations and descriptions ranging from geography to botany, passing through medicine and mineralogy. The Naturalis Historia, dated 77 A.D. and dedicated to the Imperator Titus, is composed by a total of 37 books, the result of the study of more than 2000 volumes of at least 500 different authors. Parts or complete versions of Pliny’s encyclopedia were copied and circulated for centuries. Pliny work was not free of criticism; he was criticised for the lack of originality of ideas and a general absence of objection on the sources used. Nevertheless, the amount of information in his writing made and still makes an extremely precious testimony of knowledge of the time (Gudger, 1924; Laehn, 2013; Loveland and Schmitt, 2015).

‘Salve, parens rerum omnium Natura, teque nobis Quiritium solis celebratam esse numeris omnibus tuis fave’ (Naturalis Historia, 37.205) 

Greeting, Nature, mother of all the creation, show me your favor as I am the only one among the citizens of Rome, who celebrates you in all your parts

Pliny the Elder died during the 79 A.D. violent eruption of Vesuvius, Italy, which destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. He was appointed to the Roman navy as fleet commander by the Imperator Vespasian and found himself at Misenum, in the Bay of Naples, when the eruption occurred. His nephew, Pliny the Younger, gave accounts of his death while Pliny the Elder was bringing help to friends, even though the actual causes of death are discussed in the literature (e.g. Bigelow, 1859). Thanks to Pliny the Younger we also have one of the first and most detailed descriptions of a very large and energetic eruption. From his name actually comes the descriptive term Plinian eruption. A Plinian eruption is characterised by a high Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 4 to 6 and the ejection of a large amount of pyroclasts and gases up to the stratosphere. Pyroclast density currents and surges can form and flow fast down the volcano slopes. Lightning can be observed in the eruptive column.

The Soloviev medal has been exclusively designed for the EGU by artist József Kótai.

Sergey Soloviev (1930 – 1994) was born in the ancient Russian town of Novgorod. In 1956, he obtained his PhD degree with a thesis on earthquakes, “Classification of Earthquakes in the Soviet Union on the Basis of Energy Characteristics”. For almost 40 years,  he was a great scientific contributor to the development of seismology and tsunami research, who gained worldwide recognition as an authority in these fields and who was a courageous advocate of the principles of international co-operation. From 1978, he was the head of the laboratory of seismology at the Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. His scientific heritage includes more than 500 publications including 10 books, some of which translated into English. In 1991, he was elected a full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in recognition not only of his scientific contribution but also for his personal qualities and characteristics. Among his most remarkable work, his contribution to the volume on ‘Tsunamis in the Mediterranean Sea 2000 BC-2000 AD‘ (Soloviev et al., 2000) needs to be mentioned. Moreover, he is remembered for establishing the civil tsunami warning system for the far east of the URSS.

Have these short stories inspired you to nominate a colleague for the award? Not yet? Then you can also check some more recent outstanding stories from the awardees of the previous years. You can find them at this link here!

Don’t forget you can also nominate candidates for the Division Outstanding Early Career Scientists Award (formerly Division Outstanding Young Scientists Award), which recognizes scientific achievements in the field covered by the related division, made by an early career scientist.
Candidates for the Division Outstanding Early Career Scientists Award are first evaluated by the relevant division presidents who forward the best candidate to the chair of the Union Awards Committee. Four candidates are then selected by the Council and awarded at the Union level (Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Early Career Scientists). The remaining best candidates are awarded by the relevant division.

Bibliography and sources
  1. Bigelow, J., (1859). The Death of Pliny the Elder, Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Vol. 6, No. 2 (1859), pp. 223-227. DOI: 10.2307/25057949 https://www.jstor.org/stable/25057949
  2. Gudger, E. W., (1924). “Pliny’s Historia Naturalis. The Most Popular Natural History Ever Published,” Isis 6, no. 3 (1924): 269-281. https://doi.org/10.1086/358236
  3. Laehn, T. R., (2013). Pliny’s defense of empire. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203581209
  4. Loveland, J. and S. Schmitt (2015). Poinsinet’s Edition of the Naturalis Historia (1771–1782) and the Revival of Pliny in the Sciences of the Enlightenment, Annals of Science, 72:1, 2-27, https://doi.org/10.1080/00033790.2013.840926
  5. Torno A. (2015) La ‘Naturalis Historia’ di Plinio. Il Sole 24 Ore (https://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/cultura/2016-11-30/la-naturalis-historia-plinio–144612.shtml?uuid=ADQ5Cl4B)
  6. Livius.org https://www.livius.org/articles/person/pliny-the-elder/
  7. Original online transcriptions of the Naturalis Historia: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Pliny_the_Elder/home.html
  8. Portrait of Sergey Solviev by Youri Oliounine and Stefano Tinti https://www.egu.eu/awards-medals/portrait-sergey-soloviev/ 
  9. Soloviev, S.L.Solovieva, O.N.Go, C.N.Kim, K.S. and Shchetnikov, N.A. ( 2000Tsunamis in the Mediterranean Sea 2000 B.C – 2000 A.D. Kluwer, Dordrecht237 https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-94-015-9510-0#toc
Vale Cigala
Valeria Cigala is originally from Italy and is currently a postdoc research fellow at Università degli Studi di Padova, Padua, Italy. She obtained her PhD at LMU Munich within the Vertigo ITN. She works on explosive volcanic eruptions and related hazards. She is actively taking part in the realization of the Blog for the Natural Hazard Division of EGU because scientific outreach is important and never enough.

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