Prof Gerhard Adrian is named as IMO prize winner

13 June 2024

Prof. Gerhard Adrian of Germany has been named as the winner of WMO’s highest scientific award, the IMO prize, for his outstanding work in meteorology and hydrology and contributions to international collaboration.

WMO’s Executive Council announced the selection of Mr Adrian, who was President of the German Weather Service (DWD) from 2010 to 2023 and was WMO President from 2019 to 2023.

"I am very honoured that the EC has chosen me for the next IMO prize. I also see this as a recognition for the colleagues who supported me during my time as WMO President, and thank them wholeheartedly for their support," said Mr Adrian.

He is the 69th winner of the prestigious award and will be invited to give a lecture at the Executive Council in 2025. Prof. Timothy Palmer, who was nominated in 2023, was honored by EC on 12 June. 

“Gerhard Adrian guided the WMO through a global pandemic and a fundamental change in the working practices of the WMO, ensuring that the Organization continued to work effectively in the interests of all Members and remained focused on the fundamental challenges associated with Weather, Climate and Water,” said the award citation. 

“He demonstrated exceptional leadership during this period and during his many years of service to the WMO prior to his presidency. The WMO is stronger and better able to deliver its mission because of his dedication and commitment,” it said.

It praised his “outstanding leadership of the international weather, climate and water community, with a particular emphasis on furthering the purpose of WMO. This includes advancing weather, climate and water science and its application to society as well as communicating weather, climate and water science.”

It also noted his commitment to build resilience against extreme weather and adapt to climate change through the global meteorological infrastructure coordinated by WMO.

The IMO Prize (named after WMO’s predecessor, the International Meteorological Organization) is the equivalent of a Nobel prize for meteorologists. It was established in 1955 and symbolizes the advancements that have been made in meteorology over the years. 

Career history 

Gerhard Adrian was born in 1956 and studied meteorology in Karlsruhe. He completed his doctorate and was appointed adjunct professor of meteorology at the University of Karlsruhe in 2003.  He was introduced to the WMO shortly after taking up the position as Head of the Business Area “Research and Development” and Member of the Executive Board at Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD) in 1999. 

After being appointed as President of DWD in 2010, he was subsequently elected as member of EC. He was elected as WMO President by the World Meteorological Congress in June 2019. 

He was also President of the Council of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and Chair of Policy Advisory Committee of the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).

During his WMO presidency, he took on the challenge to guide the activities of the Organization under the difficult und unforeseeable circumstances of a global pandemic. The successful adoption of the new WMO data policy as well as the establishment of the Global Basic Observing Network (GBON) and the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) were achieved during his term as WMO President.

The implementation of the governance reform, approved by the WMO Congress in 2019, was led and consistently promoted by Prof. Dr Adrian. 

Under his presidency, WMO took on new challenges like the UN Early Warnings for All initiative and the Global Greenhouse Gas Watch.

Advancing weather, climate and water science 

Gerhard Adrian gave strong support to the integration of research into the WMO with a particular view to advancements in scientific knowledge contributing to better services for society. 

As the founder of the Hans-Ertel-Centre for Weather Research and Climate Monitoring (Simmer et al. 2016) – a sustainable partnership between the German research community and the German weather service – he demonstrated the importance of long-term research planning so that knowledge gained through fundamental research can be further developed into applications and implemented in operational processes. 

Gerhard Adrian was a strong advocate for enhancing the role of social science in the work of the WMO, recognizing the importance of communication of science and of weather, climate and water information in order to ensure that the work of the WMO reaches vulnerable communities worldwide.