Citation for Matthew Huber

Matthew Huber

Matthew Huber will receive the 2018 Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award for his significant and fundamental contributions to understanding the factors controlling ocean–atmosphere heat transport, the evolution of climate sensitivity with climate state, and the interactions between modes of variability with the mean climate state.

The summary of Matthew’s research in his nomination letter is truly exemplary of a researcher on a steep ascent. He refuted the theory that changes in ocean heat transport were the primary drivers of high-latitude warmth and ice-free Antarctica in past climates, thus placing emphasis on atmospheric drivers—especially greenhouse gases—for explaining the major climate changes of the past 60 million years. He produced the first early Eocene simulations and provided one of the first thorough investigations of changes in “fast” climate sensitivity across a wide range of warmer climate states, demonstrating that climate sensitivity increases with warming. Huber’s work has also made clear that the tropics are sensitive to forcing and potentially vulnerable to change. In 2000, he proposed on theoretical grounds that all existing tropical temperature proxy data were 5°C too cold, a finding that was subsequently shown using proxy data. He combined data and modeling to demonstrate that El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability is a robust phenomenon that existed in past warm climates and is not subject to major changes with warming or continental geometry, a controversial finding at the time. He showed that superrotation occurs in a general circulation model (GCM) with only pCO2 changes as a driver. He provided the first demonstration from modern observations that tropical cyclones pump significant heat into the tropical oceans. Huber also was the first to propose, through a combination of models and paleoclimate data, that the global monsoon system is robust and existed at least as far back as the early Eocene (50 million years ago). Finally, he performed a series of future simulations based on the equilibrium climate sensitivity implied by new Eocene temperature reconstructions that show that half the world’s population may be subject to uninhabitable conditions in the limit of a strong, sustained, anthropogenic greenhouse gas release.

Matthew’s substantial impact on the field of climate science is exemplified by his large number of high-impact papers. As of last April, Matt had published more than 87 peer-reviewed articles, many of substantial impact. He has also been involved in community service through his editorship of Earth System Dynamics and Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems (G3). He exemplifies the qualities needed to continue to advance the field of climate change and is richly deserving of a 2018 Ascent Award. On behalf of the AGU Atmospheric Sciences section, I am pleased to present a 2018 Ascent Award to Matthew Huber.

—Joyce E. Penner, President, Atmospheric Sciences Section, AGU


I am deeply grateful for the AGU Ascent Award. I have never won anything before, so I’m not sure what to say. I will keep it simple.

AGU, of all societies, has always been my intellectual home, and therefore this award is of special significance to me. My thanks to AGU and the Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award Committee.

While much of what I have worked on emerged through happy accidents and fortuitous meet-ups, my long-term focus has been on trying to discover the fundamental physical relationship between global mean surface temperature and the meridional temperature gradient in warm climates. Ray Pierrehumbert first set me down that road 25 years ago and has consistently nudged me in the right direction throughout my career, so I owe him a great debt.

Furthermore, the work acknowledged in this award developed with strong support from and from collaboration with many, including Michael Ghil, Jim McWilliams, Lisa Sloan, Rodrigo Caballero, Henk Brinkhuis, Kerry Emanuel, Mark Pagani, and Appy Sluijs, to name a few. My students and other members of my research group have been a joy to me and have provided the grist for the mill that grinds us all ever so finely. I am also indebted to the Purdue University Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences and the Purdue Climate Change Research Center for providing a great environment in which to work. I also want to thank those who have resisted and fought hard against this line of research; I would not be in a position to win this award without your efforts as well. That is the beauty of science.

Finally, it must be acknowledged that none of this work would have been possible without two things: the support of my family, and coffee—lots of both.

—Matthew Huber, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.

Citation for Yi Ming

Yi Ming

Yi Ming will receive the 2018 Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award for innovations and major advances in the understanding of the role of aerosols in radiative forcing, atmospheric dynamics, and climate change from global to regional scales.

Yi Ming has used numerical models steered by basic theory and observations to develop pioneering research that has led to powerful new insights into the mechanisms by which aerosols, via their microphysical and radiative properties, force changes in atmospheric circulation and climate. He advanced basic sea salt and organic carbon aerosol properties and modeling. He developed ab initio methods and tools to derive climate-relevant physical and optical features from the “micro” world of aerosol basics, develop parameterizations for GCMs, and quantify the radiative and climate perturbations. He has also made pioneering use of atmospheric and climate models, together with observations, to unravel the effects of aerosols on physical meteorology, atmospheric dynamics, and the climate system. By teasing out the relevant mechanisms, he has connected aerosol microscale processes to the larger regional and global scales. This research has unraveled the differing influences of greenhouse gases and aerosols on surface and atmosphere radiative heating, with the two species yielding distinct interhemispheric gradients that affect the Hadley and Walker circulations differently. He has also clarified the role of land surface processes in modulating the Indian monsoon annual cycle and the precipitation biases in models in the Indian Ocean causally in terms of the meridional sea surface temperature (SST) gradients. Just as substantively, he has modeled aerosol effects on solar dimming and on tropical and midlatitude circulations. He has delineated the combined effects due to human-influenced aerosols and greenhouse gases that induce nonlinear additivity in zonal mean temperature and, more important, in tropical precipitation.

There is little doubt that Yi will continue to advance atmospheric sciences. His innovations in the physics of aerosols, aerosol–cloud interactions, and forging of a self-consistent link to meteorology and climate based on fundamental principles are richly deserving of this award. On behalf of the AGU Atmospheric Sciences section, I am pleased to present a 2018 Ascent Award to Yi Ming.

—Joyce E. Penner, President, Atmospheric Sciences Section, AGU


I am honored and humbled to receive the 2018 AGU Ascent Award. My gratitude goes to the nominators and selection committee for such a wonderful recognition.

My career would not be where it is now without the guidance and unwavering support from my mentors. In particular, I want to thank my Ph.D. advisor, Lynn Russell, for introducing me to aerosol science. I was extremely fortunate to have V. Ramaswamy (Ram) as my postdoctoral advisor, who encouraged me to go beyond aerosols to clouds and monsoons. My work with Isaac Held opened my eyes to the beauty of climate dynamics and general circulation theories. This somewhat unusual tour of atmospheric sciences, which led me to new perspectives of the climate system, would not have been possible without the nurturing environment at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). Over the years, I also learned a great deal from my students and postdocs and thoroughly enjoyed their company.

Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Rui, and our two children, Cynthia and Isaac, for their unconditional love and support. It is never easy to be around an absentminded scientist, but I promise to do better.

—Ying Ming, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, NOAA, Princeton, N.J.

Citation for David Romps

David Romps

David Romps will receive the 2018 Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award for his innovative work in developing the theory and phenomenology of both shallow and deep convection.

David combines first-principles investigations of cloud processes with cloud parameterizations and direct observations. He has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to develop innovative tools, techniques, and models that are grounded in fundamental physics and applied mathematics. For example, he has developed a new state-of-the-art cloud-resolving model that incorporates multiphase turbulent plumes in a shear flow and used a “transilient matrix” to conclude that two thirds of the subcloud air arriving in the free troposphere originates from the lowest 100 meters of the atmosphere. He developed “Lagrangian direct measurement” of entrainment and used it to show that clouds entrain at a surprisingly rapid rate. He showed that spontaneous organization of convective moist patches surrounded by broader nonconvecting dry patches is inhibited by the effects of cold pools associated with downdrafts. In another study, he showed that a doubling of CO2 leads to wider, taller, and faster clouds and a 20% increase in precipitation intensity. David has also contributed in the areas of lightning, cloud photogrammetry, the Stochastic Parcel Model, and cloud buoyancy. His research is presented by framing a scientific question in a clear way and using an impressive array of technical skills to draw important and well-defined conclusions.

David has produced outstanding research in the areas of theory, numerical simulation, and fieldwork. He is an exceptional scientist and very deserving of the AGU Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award. On behalf of the Atmospheric Sciences section, I am pleased to present a 2018 Ascent Award to David Romps.

—Joyce E. Penner, President, Atmospheric Sciences Section, AGU


I am humbled and honored by this award and filled with gratitude for the many mentors who have placed faith in me beyond warrant, given me opportunities beyond my merit, and, through their example, taught me how to think and how to be. Among them are Oded Gonen, Paul Miller, Andy Strominger, John Holdren, Dan Schrag, Zhiming Kuang, and my senior colleagues at Berkeley, including Bill Collins, Inez Fung, Ron Cohen, and Kristie Boering. I owe my thanks to all of them and to AGU for this honor.

However, after much soul-searching, I have decided not to travel across the country to accept this award. As a climate scientist, I know full well the harm being caused to our planet by the burning of fossil fuels.

I know the Earth has already warmed by a dangerous amount and that each increment of warming is essentially permanent. Transporting my body across the country and back would burn 4 times my weight in jet fuel and emit a metric ton of carbon dioxide. As much as I would enjoy accepting the award in person, I cannot justify burdening future generations with that cost.

This award has provided a valuable opportunity for reflection. Like most climate scientists, I have a large carbon footprint, bloated by tens of thousands of miles per year logged on airplanes. I have no perfect solution. I will continue to eat food, use electricity, and, yes, occasionally fly, but there are steps I can take to reduce my carbon footprint, like joining the small minority of Earth scientists who have decided to fly less. Knowing what I know about global warming, I feel that this is the right thing to do, and I hope that our universities and professional organizations can find ways to support this conscientious choice.

—David M. Romps, University of California, Berkeley

Citation for Joel Thornton

Joel Thornton

Joel Thornton will receive the 2018 Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award for his development of novel analytical and theoretical frameworks that enable the description of a rich set of insights into a variety of compounds and their chemistry within the atmosphere.

Joel is world renowned for his laboratory and field efforts that have elucidated complex multiphase chemical reactions that govern the bidirectional transformations of atmospheric chemical compounds. Early on, Joel used a novel coordinate system transform to show how the complex and nonlinearly coupled chemistry of NOx and HOx free radicals could be diagnosed. Then, in a highly innovative laboratory and field investigation, he described how organic films that ubiquitously coat surfaces alter the efficiency of uptake and subsequent reactivity of important gas phase compounds on aerosol particles. Joel has been at the forefront of instrument development that has led to a renaissance in chemical ionization mass spectrometry (CIMS). He is the developer of the FIGAERO-CIMS (Filter Inlet for Gas and Aerosols) that allows nearly continuous and simultaneous characterization of organic compounds in both the gas and the aerosol phase. His instrument development efforts are guided by his curiosity to answer important atmospheric sciences questions. For example, he developed CIMS methods to detect and characterize inorganic halogen–containing compounds at parts per trillion levels, and this effort yielded the major discovery that halogen chemistry was important even far from the coasts. He also showed that new particle formation is efficient in the boreal forest because of the formation of highly oxygenated organic compounds.

In addition to his innovative instrument development and resulting scientific discoveries, Joel has been of service to the atmospheric science community by leading a highly successful aircraft field campaign (Wintertime Investigation of Transport, Emissions, and Reactivity, or WINTER 2015) designed to study the chemical processing of wintertime emissions and is an editor of Geophysical Research Letters. In addition, he is a wonderful mentor to his students and postdocs. These are the qualities of someone who will influence our science for years to come.

On behalf of the AGU Atmospheric Sciences section, I am pleased to present a 2018 Ascent Award to Joel Thornton.

—Joyce E. Penner, President, Atmospheric Sciences Section, AGU


I am deeply honored to receive this award and grateful for the continued efforts of my mentors and colleagues, who seem to have an endless supply of encouragement and support directed toward my career. I specifically need to thank my Ph.D. advisor, Ronald Cohen (University of California, Berkeley), and my postdoctoral advisor, Jonathan Abbatt (University of Toronto), who not only helped set me on my current trajectory but also continue to be the mentors I want to emulate. The support and intellectual inspiration I receive daily from my colleagues in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington have been key to my accomplishments since starting my professorship in 2004. I’ve also benefited in countless ways from the generosity and energy of those I am lucky to call collaborators. Federal funding, from the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, and Environmental Protection Agency, has been crucial to sustaining my research over the years.

Most of all, I am very glad to be able to share this recognition with the postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduates who have worked with me over the years. Without them, the achievements mentioned in the citation would not have happened and certainly wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun. I certainly look forward to continuing working with such talented scientists toward many more discoveries in the future.

—Joel A. Thornton, University of Washington, Seattle


(2018), Huber, Ming, Romps, and Thornton receive 2018 Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award, Eos, 99, Published on 01 November 2018.

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