Volcanologist Yves Moussallam Honored With Rolex Award for Enterprise

He treks to remote volcanoes to measure their gas and aerosol emissions, in order to improve climate change predictions.

Earth Institute
November 29, 2019
Volcanologist Yves Moussallam
Volcanologist Yves Moussallam

Volcanologist Yves Moussallam was honored as an associate laureate of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise at a special event in Paris on November 28, 2019. The awards support individuals seeking to find solutions to the most pressing environmental challenges, such as those posed by a changing climate.

Moussallam will be moving full time next month to Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory as an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He is currently a research scientist at the Laboratoire Magmas et Volcans in Clermont-Ferrand, France. His work sheds light on a great scientific unknown: how the gases and aerosols emitted by remote volcanoes are affecting global climate.

“One of the largest sources of uncertainty affecting current global climate models and limiting their precision in forecasting future climate trends is volcanic emissions. This source of uncertainty is one we can address by making measurements in the field at all active volcanoes on Earth,” says Moussallam. “So far volcanic gas and aerosol measurements have been limited to easily accessible active volcanoes, yet satellite measurements indicate that more remote volcanoes are also great contributors. The Melanesian region (from Vanuatu to Papua New Guinea) in particular has been extremely active in the last five years.”

In addition to Melanesia, Moussallam’s field expeditions have brought him to active volcanic systems in other remote regions of the globe, including the five-month “Trail by Fire” to South America, as well as Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Iceland, Indonesia and Antarctica. He is now planning expeditions to measure emissions from the most active volcanoes of the Pacific Ring of Fire. As part of the Rolex award, he will receive a monetary grant in support of his project.

Yves Moussallam sampling volcanic emissions
Yves Moussallam sampling volcanic emissions. Photo: Yves Moussallam

Moussallam was originally selected as one of 10 finalists in the Rolex Awards by a jury of independent international experts from a field of 957 candidates from 111 countries in areas broadly encompassing the environment, applied science, technology and exploration. Given the public interest in all 10 finalists as demonstrated by an online vote, and the quality of their projects, Rolex decided to bestow Associate Laureate Awards on five finalists in addition to the five Laureates chosen by the jury. All of the awards were announced in Washington D.C. in June 2019.

Adapted from a Rolex press release.