2016 Appleton Medal and prize of the Institute of Physics

Professor Giles Harrison, University of Reading, for his outstanding contributions and leadership in the field of atmospheric electricity, including the discovery of new global-scale atmospheric interactions, and his leading public outreach on the meteorological effects of the solar eclipse of 2015.

Picture of Giles Harrison

Professor R Giles Harrison works at the intersection of several disciplines, including atmospheric physics, solar-terrestrial physics, aerosol science and nuclear physics.

As an experimentalist, he has developed novel measurements of clouds, turbulence, atmospheric electricity, cosmic rays, solar energetic particles, air ions and lightning –carried out within the tight power, weight and telemetry constraints of small balloon flights.

Harrison has challenged the conception of atmospheric electricity as being a result of atmospheric dynamics, by revealing subtle feedback effects, such as unexpected effects on droplet growth or cloud properties. His work in this area has galvanised the international community and reinvigorated the subject.

Further, Harrison has established a theory for particle electrification, the Clement-Harrison theory, which is now independently verified and being used in the nuclear industry.

He has measured charge in liquid water and Saharan dust clouds, led the public outreach for meteorological effects of the 2015 solar eclipse, and published the first peer-reviewed measurements of the ash plume from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, having been asked to provide in-situ observations by the Cabinet Office – and his advice to the Met Office made the UK much better prepared for a repeat event.

Harrison is joint head of his department, and a dedicated and very popular lecturer of undergraduate and postgraduate meteorological courses, with students keen to have him as their project supervisor. His many years of work in managing and improving the department’s atmospheric observatory has made it a highly renowned facility for research and teaching in atmospheric physics.

During a 24-year research career, Harrison has authored or co-authored more than 150 peer-reviewed publications, is cited in more than 5,000 others, and has recently written a book on atmospheric measurement and instrumentation.

He was elected to the Academia Europaea in 2014, is a senior fellow of the Higher Education Academy, is on the executive board of Environmental Research Letters and has been an active member of the IOP’s Environmental Physics Group.