Water Management And Protection Prize


Dr. Soroosh Sorooshian of the University of California, Irvine (USA).

The Water Resources Management and Protection Prize, which had the topic of “Remote Sensing and GIS Applications for Water Resources Management”, is being awarded to Dr. Sorooshian for his development and refinement of the PERSIANN model to estimate precipitation from satellite remotely sensed data.

PERSIANN is a method that uses artificial neural networks – a form of artificial intelligence – and infrared (GOES IR) and TRMM satellite data to estimate global precipitation.

Dr. Sorooshian not only led the development of a very important precipitation estimation model – PERSIANN – but with his team he has continued to improve its predictive ability between 2000 and 2009 by applying different methods drawn from AI (e.g., self organizing algorithms), using new sources to compare and calibrate its estimates (e.g., TRMM and the TOGA experiment), and in simulating data anticipated sensors (e.g., ABL). He shows not only insight and innovation but also dedication to a mission that is of vital importance to hydrologists and water managers the world over.

Winner Profile

Dr. Soroosh Sorooshian is Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth System Science; and the Director of the Center for Hydrometeorology and Remote Sensing (CHRS) at the University of California, Irvine


• University of California, LA Engineering Ph.D. 1978

• University of California, LA Systems Engineering Engineer Degree 1977

• University of California, LA Operations Research M.S. 1973

• California State Polytechnic University Mechanical Engineering B.S. 1971

Selected Awards:

• Orange County Engineering Council (OCEC) Distinguished Engineering Educator Award 2009

• American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Orange County Branch 2007-2008 Distinguished Engineering Educator

• UNESCO Great Man-made River Prize, 2007 awarded to Center for Hydrometeorology and Remote Sensing (CHRS) and NSF STC SAHRA (Sustainability of semi-Arid Hydrologic and Riparian Areas)

• Robert E. Horton Memorial Lectureship, American Meteorological Society, 2006“For significant contributions for estimating precipitation from space-based imagery and for application to semi-arid region hydrology and water resources management.”

• NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, 2005 "For your distinguished record in providing scientific leadership for global water cycle research and assuring that NASA science is well integrated into international programs"

• William Nordberg Memorial Lectureship, NASA Goddard Scientific Colloquium, 2004

• Group Honor Award for Excellence, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2001 “For leading a multi-agency effort to provide critical hydroecological information and new measurement for sustaining our precious semi-arid natural resources”

Acceptance Speech

sorooshianspeechYour Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

I am humbled by this honor of being the recipient of your prize in the category of Water Resources Management and Protection, especially being in the company of such outstanding international scholars being honored today as well.

Your Excellency, your heartfelt commitment and interest in the preservation of our natural environment, especially in the area of water resources gives a special meaning to the category for which I am being honored. 

As you are well aware perhaps the most significant source of fresh water blessing humanity is the natural rainfall, which is part of the global hydrologic cycle.  This is particularly crucial for the arid and semi-arid regions of the world, especially the Middle East Regions. 

Even though the amount of rainfall in the arid and semi-arid regions of the world is relatively small, it is nonetheless the primary source of water which replenishes our groundwater systems and fills our water resource supply systems, such as reservoirs. 

At the same time, the highly intense rainfall events are responsible for floods ranging from flash floods to the  wide spread flood events, such as the ones experienced this past summer in Pakistan, that create such devastation in both economic and human terms.

The current ability of the hydrologic services and water resources agencies responsible for flood and drought predication and water supply planning is highly limited because of the scarcity of accurate rainfall data.  In addition, the recent concerns about the impact of climate change on the global hydrologic cycle has placed more importance for the scientific community to address the observation of global patterns of precipitation in order to detect long term trends and variability of extremes such as droughts and floods. 

To this end, my research group, the Center for Hydrometeorology and Remote Sensing (CHRS) at the University of California, Irvine has been engaged in the research and development of exploiting capabilities of earth observing satellites to estimate rainfall patterns over our planet with the specific objective of meeting the requirements of the hydrologic and water resources communities  This has resulted in the development of the PERSIANN algorithm for which my contributions are being recognized tonight at this award ceremony. The journey to tonight’s event in the beautiful city of Riyadh has taken nearly two decades involving many outstanding colleagues including graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who have helped bring my vision to fruition.  In particular, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my former students and current colleagues Drs. Kuo-lin Hsu, Xiaogang Gao, Bisher Imam, and Hong Yang and my computer specialist, Mr. Dan Braithwaite for their excellence and tireless contributions. As a small center, remaining efficient and maintaining a high level of enthusiasm is a necessity and I am grateful to my Center Administrator Mrs. Diane Hohnbaum-Jarcheh for her efforts. We as Middle Eastern ’s place special value in our families and perhaps the most important contributors to my professional success are my supportive wife Shirin and our two sons Jamshid and Armin who are accomplished engineers in their own right.  

Naturally, the work I am being honored for would not have been possible without the financial support of a number of U.S. agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Science Foundation (NSF) and UNESCO and the resources and facilities provided to me by the University of California, Irvine, and my previous institution, the University of Arizona, Tucson, where I had the honor of being the founding director of an NSF-funded  center called SAHRA focusing exclusively on water issues in arid and semi-arid regions.

Given the complexities of the natural atmospheric processes, such as clouds which produce the rain, by no means is the work complete.  It is my hope that this prestigious international water prize will provide the necessary visibility so that many nations will invest additional resources for research and development of satellite tools that are needed for the accurate observation of the elements of the hydrologic system, especially global precipitation.  I remain optimistic that in the next decade and through international cooperation in research, our ability to provide more accurate information about extreme hydrology events will greatly increase, helping planners to better mitigate any potential negative impacts of droughts and floods.

In closing, your Excellencies, I am grateful to the members of your internationally prominent prize selection committee for their recognition that my attempt to utilize space-based technologies for observing rainfall patterns over our planet is worthy of the 4th Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water Resources Management and Protection.

Winning Work

  1. Soroosh Sorooshian, Kuo-Lin Hsu, Xiaogang Gao, Hoshin V. Gupta, Bisher Imam, and Dan Braithwaite, "Evaluation of PERSIANN System Satellite-Based Estimates of Tropical Rainfall" Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, April 2002.
  2. Sorooshian, S., X. Gao, K. Hsu, R.A. Maddox, Y. Hong, H.V. Gupta, and B. Imam, “Diurnal Variability of Tropical Rainfall Retrieved from Combined GOES and TRMM Satellite Information,” Journal of Climate, 15(9): 983-1001, May 2002.
  3. Hsu, K-L, S. Sorooshian, X. Gao, B. Imam, "Global Precipitation Observations from the PERSIANN System", GEWEX/WCRP Newsletter, Vol 13(3), 11-12, August 2003.
  4. Hong, Y., K-L Hsu, S. Sorooshian, X. Gao, "Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed Imagery Using an Artificial Neural Network Cloud Classification System," Journal of Applied Meteorology, 43(12): 1834-1852, December 2004.
  5. Behrangi A , KL Hsu , B Imam, S Sorooshian, GJ Huffman, RJ Kuligowski, "PERSIANN-MSA: A Precipitation Estimation Method from Satellite-Based Multispectral Analysis", Journal of Hydrometeorology, 10(6), 1414-1429, December 2009.

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