Precipitation Conference Honors Sorooshian

August 1, 2019 - A worldwide precipitation conference hosted in June by UC Irvine and its Center for Hydrometeorology and Remote Sensing attracted nearly 200 international participants for three days of lectures, discussion, poster displays and a tribute dinner for CHRS Director Soroosh Sorooshian.

Held June 19-21 at the Beckman Center of the National Academies on the UCI campus, IPC12 (the 12th International Precipitation Conference) focused on the challenges and innovations of water cycle dynamics, including precipitation estimation, predictive modeling at local and global scales, and the hydrologic impacts of precipitation extremes and anticipated change.

More than 150 presenters delivered nearly 50 talks spanning a variety of research subjects over the three-day event. In addition, two poster sessions featured more than 100 posters depicting research from all corners of the world.

The highlight of the conference for many, though, was the tribute dinner/roast honoring the notable four-decade career of Sorooshian, a Samueli School Distinguished Professor. A parade of speakers lauded Sorooshian for advancing hydrometeorology research and applications, providing community leadership and mentoring countless colleagues.

As the founder of CHRS, Sorooshian has built global capacity for monitoring, forecast and mitigation of hydrologic disasters through the development of precipitation products, leveraging and extending the benefits of space and weather agencies' technological resources into applications that assist hydrologists and water resource managers worldwide.

The tribute dinner was helmed by emcee Tony Busalacchi, a longtime Sorooshian colleague and president of UCAR (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research), a university consortium dedicated to advancing Earth system science. “We’re here to celebrate and honor a world-class scientist, international leader in hydrology and water resources, a scholar, a friend, a colleague, mentor teacher, educator, father and husband,” said Busalacchi, before launching a video depicting the honoree’s life beginning with his childhood home in Iran.

More than 15 colleagues, friends, family members and former students paid tribute to Sorooshian. Among those was John Dracup, Sorooshian’s doctoral adviser at UCLA. “Soroosh was a creative and highly talented student, and he has continued this spirit of creativity,” Dracup said. “How many professors have their own Wikipedia site?” Dracup noted that while there is a difference between creativity and intelligence, his former student possesses both.

Dracup read from a letter written by one of Sorooshian’s former graduate students, Newsha Ajami, who is now director of urban water policy at Stanford. “As an adviser, Soroosh was kind, generous, caring and inclusive,” Ajami wrote. “Students always came first and his door was always open.”

Samueli School Dean Gregory Washington, who presented Sorooshian with a plaque honoring his lifetime of achievement, reassured attendees that despite the tribute dinner, the hydrologist is not retiring just yet. “Just a few days ago, Soroosh was asking me for more resources so I know he’s not leaving,” Washington said, to audience laughter.

Other speakers who lauded and/or roasted their friend included: former Samueli School dean Rafael Bras, who called Sorooshian “an incredible scholar and intellectual, and an extraordinary mentor”; Duke University engineering professor Ana Barros, who said Sorooshian “is always on top of everything and supporting everybody”; and Ghassem Asrar, director of the World Climate Research Programme, who commended Sorooshian for his scientific contributions. “Most of our colleagues recognize your contributions to the field of hydrology, hydrometeorology and remote sensing,” Asrar said. “I know you always think well beyond those disciplines and always put the interests of science ahead of your personal interests.”

After the speeches had concluded and several gifts had been bestowed upon Sorooshian, it was his turn. He thanked everyone, calling out conference organizer Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, CEE Distinguished Professor and associate dean of research and innovation; and all of his UCI colleagues who contributed to the conference’s success. “It’s been a great honor, a wonderful journey,” Sorooshian said.

The first IPC was held in 1986 Caracas, Venezuela. The conference has been hosted around the world since then, in places including the Netherlands, Portugal, France and Canada. The last U.S. hosted conference was in 2001, in Rockport, Maine.

-Anna Lynn Spitzer

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