Mike Wallace, professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, is a 2024 recipient of the Japan Prize. The prestigious award honors scientists and researchers worldwide for having contributed significantly to the peace and prosperity of humankind through achievements that have substantially advanced science and technology. This year’s recipients were announced Jan. 23, and a formal ceremony will follow in April in Japan.

Mike Wallace

“Ever since my boyhood, I’ve been fascinated by weather and I’ve wondered what makes it so different from one year to the next,” said Wallace. “Being able to pursue this question during my long career at UW has been like a dream come true. The selection of meteorologists for this year’s Japan Prize was in recognition of the dramatic improvements in the skill of weather forecasts over the past 60 years. Choosing Brian Hoskins and me as co-recipients was a vote of confidence for the curiosity-driven research that played a role in making those advances possible. I hope the UW leadership will continue to value it in the years ahead.”

Wallace’s impact in the geosciences has focused on discovery using observations to understand weather and global climate and how they vary. This included studies on the Pacific decadal oscillation and how El Niño influences climate in North America. He co-authored what is considered a cornerstone introductory textbook to atmospheric sciences and remains one of the most highly cited researchers in his field. A long-time professor of the University of Washington, he joined the faculty in 1966 and served as chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, co-director of the Program on the Environment and director of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (now known as the Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean and Ecosystems Studies).

“From his discoveries of global-scale climate patterns that explain variations in weather, to his seminal textbooks read by students around the world, I cannot think of an individual that has had as broad and deep of an influence on the fields of atmospheric and climate science as Mike Wallace,” said Joel Thornton, chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. “He has provided incredible scientific vision and leadership to many colleagues and students, here at UW and around the world, and always with a truly outsized amount of kindness and generosity. I’m sure that like me, all those who have worked with or learned from Mike are absolutely thrilled for him to receive the honor and recognition that the Japan Prize brings.”

The Japan Prize was established in 1983 and covers all fields of science and technology, of which two specific fields are selected each year to receive the award. In April, awardees take part in a high-profile ceremony in Tokyo, which includes heads of state and high-ranking officials in Japan, as well as eminent figures from various circles. Awardees come from a pool of nominees put forward by more than 15,500 prominent researchers and scientists from across the globe. Their academic achievements are evaluated, as well as their wider contributions to advancing science, technology, and the causes of world peace and prosperity.

You can read the Japan Prize Foundation’s press release naming Wallace and watch the announcement on YouTube.