Michael D. Dettinger, Ph.D.
Special Recognition Award
Below is the text found on the Special Recognition Award presented to Mike Dettinger at the 2020 California Extreme Precipitation Symposium held on June 30, 2020.
Special Recognition Award
Honoring Mike Dettinger for a very productive and influential career spanning 38 years (1981-2019) as a research hydroclimatologist at U.S Geological Survey and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His research has significantly advanced our scientific understanding of regional surface water and groundwater resources, hydroclimatic variability, and climate-change in the Western U.S. His many scientific contributions in the field of hydroclimatology have informed public decision-making resulting in increased public safety from floods and droughts.
Mike has been a leader in understanding the causes of extreme events in the water cycle and in applying those findings to meet practical needs. He was a key architect of the ARkStorm extreme flooding scenario for multi-hazards preparedness planning. With partners from NOAA, Scripps, and California Dept. of Water Resources, he was the co-designer of California's extreme storm observation network, which is now a reality.
Mike's deep knowledge of hydrology and key data sets lead to major improvements in understanding the importance of atmospheric rivers in producing most of the floods along the West Coast, delivering 25-50% of its annual water supply, and serving as "drought busters."
Along the way, Mike has introduced a set of extremely useful analytical tools and statistical techniques which have been of great value to researchers and applied users. He was among the first to explain how hydrologic variability is organized across continental to global scales. His work helped to blaze trails in elucidating the sensitivity and response of shorter period hydrologic phenomena to longer period climate variation.
The rigor of his scientific approach (cited in scientific literature more than 25,000 times) is complemented by his ability to communicate results through both formal publications and many presentations. He authored and co-authored 150+ scientific articles and chapters in scholarly journals and books, 30+ government reports, and 80+ other reports in less formal outlets. Some of his graphical displays have become iconic and impactful, such as a map showing West Coast precipitation events can be as extreme as anywhere else in the US. Also his ability to convey complex scientific findings in a compelling manor to non-specialists is highly effective.
Mike has been highly influential in shaping water and environmental programs and policy, as evidenced by the high demand placed upon him for committee and agency assignments. Mike has an extraordinary appreciation of environmental systems, and he has an unusual ability of synthesizing complex information and keeping focus on big picture issues. His high standards, innovative ideas, and forceful personality have produced an impressive scientific legacy for which he can be very proud.
Mike Dettinger, you are an exemplary model of a scientist who worked to benefit society and the environment. With extreme admiration and respect for your many contributions and accomplishments, your colleagues recognize and honor you with this award presented on the 30th of June 2020.
California Extreme Precipitation Symposium
At the Event
The Special Recognition Award was presented by Rob Hartman with Robert K. Hartman Consulting Services, Roseville, CA.
For a complete list of Mike's professional history, activities, and publications up to the date of this award, see his full CV [PDF, .2 MB].
- B.A., UC San Diego (Revelle College) — Physics (1977)
- M.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology — Civil Engineering (1979)
- M.S., UC Los Angeles — Atmospheric Sciences (1991)
- Ph.D., UC Los Angeles — Atmospheric Sciences (1997)
For more details about Mike's academic history, see his full CV [PDF, .2 MB].