Alumnus Noah Diffenbaugh (’92) Awarded American Geophysical Union Fellowship and Honors

Alumnus Noah S. Diffenbaugh, of the Mount Madonna School (MMS) class of 1992, was recently named as a 2020 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fellow and recipient of the AGU’s William Kaula Award.

Diffenbaugh is a professor of Earth System Science at Stanford University, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, and an affiliate of the Precourt Institute for Energy. He is one of 62 individuals elected as 2020 AGU fellows. Since 1962, AGU has elected fewer than 0.1% of members to join this prestigious group of individuals.

“The members of this year’s class of Fellows have made exceptional contributions in our Earth and space sciences community through breakthrough, discovery, or innovation in their disciplines,” expressed Robin Bell, AGU president, and LaToya Myles chair of the AGU Honors and Recognition Committee, in a written statement. “Thanks to their dedication and sacrifice, AGU Fellows serve as global leaders and experts who have propelled our understanding of geosciences. We are confident that they will remain curious and relentlessly focused on answers as they continue to advance their research, which pushes our boundaries of knowledge to create a healthy planet and beyond.”

James Zachos, distinguished professor of earth and planetary sciences and the Ida Benson Lynn Chair of Ocean Health at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), commented on Diffenbaugh’s selection.

“The honor of the AGU fellowship is in recognition of Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh’s outstanding scientific contributions. The William Kaula award is in recognition of unselfish service to the scientific community through extraordinary dedication to, and exceptional efforts on behalf of AGU’s publications program.

“Professor Diffenbaugh, who attended MMS from its founding in 1979 through his graduation in 1992, earned his Ph.D. at UCSC, is recognized as one of the leading climate scientists of his generation,” continued Zachos. “His research has focused largely on the role of global warming in amplifying extremes in climate such as droughts. In addition to his research contributions, he has served as a distinguished spokesperson for the scientific community through his editorial service to professional journals and public outreach in national/international media.”

On December 9, the AGU held a virtual ceremony to honor and recognize its new fellows and awardees.

“This was a very pleasant surprise, and is a testament to all of the editors, collaborators, mentors and mentees that I have been lucky to work with over the years,” said Diffenbaugh. “I’m particularly honored that the Kaula Award acknowledges service to the community – it’s the kind of award that Mount Madonna would give!”


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Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.