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Professor Michael Mann (right) at a Perry World House event with former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (left) and Director of Annenberg Public Policy Center Kathleen Hall Jamieson (center). Credit: Liliann Zou

Penn professor Michael Mann was awarded the 2022 Stroud Award for Freshwater Excellence by the Stroud Water Research Center.

The award was presented at The Water’s Edge gala, where it has been awarded annually since 2011. It recognizes individuals or institutions whose work helps conserve and improve freshwater resources and ecosystems. 

“The Stroud Water Research Center is a very important part of the environmental research and environmental communication community,” Mann wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian. “It means a lot to have my own work acknowledged by them, and to cement a relationship with them that synergies our own efforts here at Penn.”

Mann was appointed as the presidential distinguished professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science and has held a joint appointment in the Annenberg School since Sept. 1. He also serves as the director of the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability & the Media. 

At the PCSSM, Mann leads various efforts to tackle communication challenges related to climate change and sustainability to the general public and policymakers.

With the help of the PCSSM’s Internal and External Advisory Boards, Mann spearheads conversations and initiatives, such as hiring postdoctoral researchers and hosting events. He recently led a discussion that featured Malcolm Turnbull, the former prime minister of Australia, regarding Australia’s action against climate change. 

“[Mann will] help make Penn a central place for research and education around both climate and environmental issues,” chair of the Department of Anthropology Kathleen Morrison said. “We hope to bring together the voices of scientists, journalists, policymakers, and others to really get the word out to combat misinformation and to make clear what science is actually telling us about climate." 

Morrison also serves as a PCSSM Internal Advisory Board member and co-chair of the Penn Environmental Initiative.

Mann is well-known for his “hockey stick” graph, which was published in 1999 and plots temperature fluctuations from the past 1,000 years. The graph exhibited the profound impact humans have on the climate and elicited waves of controversy, but was later validated by the likes of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. 

Cornelia Colijn, who serves as a PCSSM Internal Advisory Board member and executive director of the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, said that the hockey stick graph influenced her decision to study environmental science.

She said, “That graph says almost everything we need to know about our warming planet, succinct and clear.” 

Now, Mann’s research is primarily centered around the effects of climate change in the present day.

“These days I’m focusing more on modern climate change impacts, such as ice sheet collapse, sea level rise, and the effect that climate change is having on dangerous weather extremes,” Mann wrote. “Our research group here at Penn is employing a range of tools, from analyses of observations to physical modeling to try to answer key outstanding questions about these impacts.”

Mann also noted the importance of developing accurate models to further understand the true impact and severity that climate change has on extreme weather patterns. 

“While some mechanisms are well [understood] and well-captured in current generation climate models, some of the [other] effects we’re focused on are not,” Mann wrote. “That means that models may be understating the impact that fossil fuel burning and warming could have on these weather extremes. Our research group at Penn is employing a range of tools to try to answer key questions about these impacts.”

Mann added that he recently finished the draft for his next book, which will contrast lessons from “Earth’s past” and “the climate crisis we face today.” The book is scheduled for release late next year.