Public Release: 

NASA scientists awarded distinctions as 2012 AGU elected Fellows

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. -- NASA scientists figure prominently in the distinguished group honored as Fellows of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in 2012. Dr. F. Michael Flasar, a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and Dr. Anthony D. Del Genio, a physical scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), New York, have been named AGU Fellows. Dr. James Slavin, who recently moved from NASA Goddard to the University of Michigan, was also named a Fellow.

These scientists are among the 61 new AGU Fellows elected in recognition of their acknowledged eminence in Earth and space sciences. No more than 0.1% of the total membership of AGU can receive this honor in any given year. New Fellows are nominated by their scientific peers and chosen by a committee of existing Fellows. The new Fellows will be presented with an official certificate during a ceremony to be held at the AGU meeting in San Francisco in the Fall of 2012.

"To be elected a Fellow of AGU is a special tribute, and it is great to see these outstanding Goddard scientists being recognized by their peers," says Dr. Nicholas White, Director of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at NASA Goddard.

Flasar was cited for his "fundamental contributions to planetary and atmospheric science," particularly his research on the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, as well as Saturn's moon Titan, the only satellite in the solar system to have a planet-like atmosphere. He is the Principal Investigator for the infrared instrument, called the Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS), aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft. CIRS measures temperature and can provide a wealth of information about the surface, internal structure and atmosphere of a planet or moon. Flasar is also a member of the Cassini Radio Science team, which investigates Saturn's and Titan's atmospheres, measures the gravity of Saturn and its moons and studies the properties of Saturn's rings.

Studies by Flasar and his colleagues have highlighted the similarities between the meteorology and global climates of Earth and these other bodies, as well as the rich diversity of planetary atmospheres. Flasar predicted, for example, that Titan has a jet-stream-like wind pattern near the winter pole that isolates a pocket of air in much the same way that air currents on Earth set up the atmospheric conditions for the ozone holes to form. Detailed measurements made by CIRS later confirmed the existence of this wind pattern in the northern hemisphere. Flasar also was on the team that discovered one of Titan's most puzzling features: most of the atmosphere rotates up to 20 times faster than the moon itself.

A senior researcher at GISS, Del Genio was cited for "fundamental contributions in atmospheric and cloud physics, including the use remote sensing data, to improve basic understanding of climate physics and reliable climate forecasting capability."

Del Genio is perhaps best known in the science community for his fundamental physics-based parameterizations of clouds and rainstorms that he developed for the GISS global climate model and his insights into how cloud processes will change in a warming climate. He is among the few climate modelers who is also active in data analysis research and has used data from the NASA CloudSat and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Missions, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric System Research Program, to understand the sensitivity of storm clouds to environmental conditions. With his collaborators, he separated El Niño and Pacific Decadal Oscillation variability from 20th-century trends in sea surface temperature and meteorological fields and used satellite data to detect a strengthening of the tropical general circulation in the late 20th century.

Del Genio has had a long involvement in planetary science as well. His Pioneer Venus mission research with fellow GISS scientist Bill Rossow included the first application of automated cloud tracking techniques to satellite data. This work produced papers documenting for the first time Venus's then-unfamiliar global super-rotation as well as the planetary-scale waves that modulate its inter-annual variability. Del Genio is also a member of the Cassini mission imaging team and has documented winds and the processes responsible for maintaining the general circulation of the atmospheres of Saturn and Titan.

Slavin was recognized for "fundamental contributions to the understanding of the solar wind interactions with the planets and the structure and dynamics of the Earth's magnetosphere." He has served or is presently serving as a Science Investigator on 19 space science missions including the Cluster, Space Technology 5, MESSENGER, Magnetospheric MultiScale, and BepiColombo missions. During his three years with NASA, he served as director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Goddard, has held leadership positions in the Electrodynamics Branch and in Magnetospheric Physics at NASA Headquarters in Washington, and was a planetary scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Slavin is now a professor at the University of Michigan and chair of the Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences Department.


For more information about the AGU Fellow award, visit:

For more information on Cassini's CIRS and Flasar's work, visit:

For more information on Del Genio's work, visit:

For more information on Slavin's work, visit:

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