Rong Fu, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and associate director of the Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering, and Gregory Okin, professor of geography, have been selected as 2020 American Geophysical Union fellows. Fu and Okin were recognized for propelling the field of geoscience forward and pushing the boundaries of human knowledge to create a healthier planet.

The fellows were selected for their exceptional contributions to Earth and space science. Since the fellowship’s establishment in 1962, AGU has elected fewer than 0.1% of its members to join the prestigious group of individuals.

Fu’s research aims to clarify the causes and predictability of the variability of the atmospheric water cycle in a climate context, primarily focusing on the interactions between land and vegetation, fire and aerosols, clouds and rainfall, and connections with the adjacent oceans. Her research has been focused on the mechanisms that control the rainfall variability over Amazonian and Pan-American monsoon regions and how they will influence rainfall and droughts in the future. Her research is among the earliest to show an active role of tropical rainforests in initiating dry to wet season transition over Amazonia and the significance of the Tibetan Plateau in determining water vapor transport to the global stratosphere. Fu’s team at the Water, Atmosphere, Vegetation, and Extremes Research Group developed a seasonal prediction system for summer rainfall anomalies over the Great Plains. The system is now regularly used by the Texas Water Development Board.

Okin’s main research interests concern plant-soil-atmosphere interactions in the world’s drylands, which cover 40% of the Earth’s land surface. His research takes place in the U.S. and abroad, with laboratory, field and modeling components. His research also makes heavy use of remote sensing analysis, both in method development and process studies. Okin is currently engaged in multiple active projects: One examines the impacts of wind erosion in driving the conversion of grassland to shrublands; another uses cloud computing to monitor rangelands by combining satellite and field data.