CU-Boulder Professor Receives American Geophysical Union Medal

Published: Dec. 16, 2008

In recognition of his innovative and influential research in hydrology, University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Vijay K. Gupta will receive the 2008 Robert E. Horton Medal of the American Geophysical Union.

The Horton Medal is the highest international award for outstanding contributions to the geophysical aspects of hydrology presented by AGU. Only one medalist is chosen each year. The medal citation, which honors Gupta for "redefining the frontiers of scientific hydrology," will be presented at the honors ceremony Dec. 17 during the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco Dec. 15-19.

Gupta, a professor of civil engineering and a fellow of the university's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, was honored for understanding and modeling hydrologic processes from the molecular to the planetary scale. Much of his research has focused on applying the modern idea of "self-similarity" -- structures whose individual components are miniature replicas of the whole -- to developing new hydrologic theories of rainfall, floods and river networks.

"As the planet warms, we will no longer be able to predict hydrologic events based on past observations," Gupta said. "This is why it is so important to understand the geophysical processes that govern the probability of precipitation events, runoff distribution and hydrologic extremes such as floods and droughts."

Gupta is recognized internationally for his research. Professor P.E. O'Connell of Newcastle University in England, a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, wrote in his citation for the AGU honors ceremony that Gupta "has eschewed the traditional, safer, specialist route with assured incremental progress for more integrative and risky directions that can redefine the field through unforeseen but enduring advances."

Gupta is leading the Hydro-Kansas Research Project, the first multidisciplinary watershed study of its kind. Using the Whitewater Basin east of Wichita, Kan., as a natural laboratory, Gupta and others are working to link rainfall, runoff and basin topography to understand and predict floods under climate and land use changes

Gupta, who was named an AGU Fellow in 1990, joined the CU-Boulder faculty in 1989. For the past several years he has been working to modernize the undergraduate and graduate hydrology curriculum at CU-Boulder.

For more information on the 2008 AGU awards visit