William Kaula Award

Noah S. Diffenbaugh

Stanford University




We are delighted that Noah Diffenbaugh is the recipient of the 2020 William Kaula award. 

In addition to excellence in research, mentoring, and teaching, Noah has supported AGU’s publications program with exceptional dedication. Noah was a member of the Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) Editorial Board from 2009 to 2019, first as an editor then as an editor in chief.During his tenure at GRL, annual total submissions grew by 20%, and at the same time selectivity, impact, and the ranking of the journal also increased. GRL is perhaps the toughest editorial challenge within the AGU portfolio because its scope matches the full range of AGU activities, it receives roughly half of all the submissions to the publications program, and it must be selective and highlight the most immediate science. The pure logistics of running the journal and processing the ever-increasing number of submissions is an enormous effort. Noah met this challenge with energy and enthusiasm, and GRL remains the premier choice for timely research contributions across the geosciences. Currently, he continues to support AGU publications as an editor of Earth’s Future.


Noah was everything that an editor in chief should aspire to be: fair, supportive, clear, and organized, as well as an outstanding mentor to new editors. Noah’s vision for GRL was to provide a fast and fair review process while maintaining and improving the quality of the manuscripts published. One of Noah’s main accomplishments was the establishment of new editorial and revision policies for GRL with clear standards across the peer-review process. His leadership at GRL was transformational, with a commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion across the GRL Editorial Board. In particular, he was extremely successful in bringing women to the peer-review process, both as editors and as reviewers.Noah led a series of discussions establishing best practices for the role of associate editors at GRL focused on equity and their potential as future editors. One of the nominating letter writers said, “I have never had the pleasure of serving under such a gifted leader as Noah. I have taken many lessons from my time working with him and can’t help but measure all other leaders by his shining example.”


Noah has transformed GRL in ways that will resonate for years to come, laying a solid foundation for its continued growth and success as the preeminent journal of the Earth Sciences. 


Suzana J. Camargo, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, N.Y.; and Merav Opher, Boston University, Mass. 




Thank you, Suzana and Merav, all of the letter writers, and the committee, for this great honor. I know saying “This is an award for the whole team” is a sports cliché, but in this case it really is true: The Kaula Award acknowledges unselfish service to the community, which is the perfect description of the editors, associate editors, and staff I’ve been lucky to work with at EosGRL, and Earth’s Future over the years—I am proud to accept this award on everyone’s behalf.


I’m particularly proud of what we did together at GRL, especially in increasing diversity, equity. and inclusion in the Editorial Board. We didn’t succeed in making the Editorial Board fully inclusive or fully representative of the AGU community, but we made real progress, in spite of the usual canards about why progress must be slow. This is not to say that challenges don’t remain. As AGU recognizes, the geosciences have serious issues with diversity, equity, and inclusion; bullying and harassment; and research misconduct, including, unfortunately, in the journals.


There are also a number of additional issues facing scientific publication, from the esoteric (such as sustainable models for open access) to the universal (such as the legitimacy of institutions in modern society). At GRL, we did our best to navigate these headwinds by falling on the side of treating authors fairly, of making results available for the community rather than gatekeeping, and of moving toward new technologies and practices while remaining grounded in the foundations of scientific inquiry and AGU’s ethos of respect and ethics. I am pleased to see this commitment at Earth’s Future and across AGU publications, which continue to be a world leader on these issues.


In closing, I’d like to acknowledge the thousands of authors whose papers I have handled and the thousands of reviewers who have provided such thoughtful and unselfish feedback. I am humbled to have been entrusted with the editorial role and grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow. Being an AGU editor has been the most profound educational experience of my life. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity and for all of the amazing colleagues I have met and worked with along the way.


Finally, I’d like to thank my research group and my family, all of whom have tolerated all of the time and attention that “the red arrows” have required. Thank you.



—Noah S. Diffenbaugh, Stanford University, Calif.