Molnar awarded science prize from Royal Swedish Academy

By Staff

Peter Molnar, a professor in geological sciences and a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at CU-Boulder, has been awarded the prestigious 2014 Crafoord Prize in Geosciences by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for his groundbreaking research in geophysics and geological sciences.

Molnar was honored for his contributions to the understanding of global plate tectonics, including the deformation of continents and the structure and evolution of mountain ranges. He also was cited for his research on the impact of tectonic processes on ocean-atmosphere circulation and climate.

The $620,000 prize is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy to honor achievements in fields not covered by its better known Nobel Prizes. The Crafoord Prize covers the disciplines of astronomy, mathematics, geosciences and biosciences as a complement to the Nobel Prize disciplines. Only one Crafoord Prize is awarded annually by the academy, on a rotating basis by discipline.

Molnar is considered by many to be an expert on the driving forces behind Earth’s plate motions. He has combined geological and geophysical methods with satellite measurements and modeling techniques to provide a new understanding of the formation of mountain ranges and their role in global tectonics. He currently is studying how geological changes in Tibet have affected Asian climate, including the Asian monsoon.

Much of Molnar’s research has involved the continental collision between India and Eurasia in the south Asian region, a process that has been occurring for roughly 50 million years and one that involves frequent, large earthquakes in the Himalayas and Tibet.

In addition, Molnar has used an interdisciplinary approach in studying the processes of Earth’s crust and mantle, including their influence on climate. His contributions have helped scientists better understand ocean current circulation and its influence on regional and global climate, as well as earthquake risks in the southern Himalayas.

The May 6 prize ceremony at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will be attended by Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia. The Crafoord Prize was established in 1980 by Holger Crafoord, a Swedish industrialist, and his wife Anna-Greta Crafoord.