AGU Advances

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Volume 2 Issue 3 | October 2021


When I was born, the concentration of CO2 was about 315 parts per million and increasing every year. Six decades later, CO2 is 100 parts per million higher, about the same increase within a single human lifetime as occurred over thousands of years between glacial and interglacial periods. Observed greenhouse warming is in line with predictions made in models built on those developed by 2021 Physics Nobelists Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann. As more has been learned about the Earth System, these models have increased in complexity. But the overall lesson – increased greenhouse gases will change climate enough to have important and costly consequences for humans – has been clear for decades.

One of the few previous Nobel Prizes awarded to scientists studying the complex Earth System was the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded jointly to Paul J. Crutzen, Mario J. Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland for their work in understanding how human-produced chlorinated compounds would act to reduce the protective layer of stratospheric ozone. Though it took the surprise of the Antarctic ozone hole to drive action, global agreements like the Montreal Protocol and its amendments regulated the emissions of chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-depleting gases. We now see the path to recovery, though the large 2020 Antarctic ozone hole emphasizes the system’s complexity. As chlorofluorocarbons are also strong greenhouse gases, these agreements also avoided additional global warming.

Reducing emissions of a greenhouse gas like CO2 is more difficult given how it is entwined with our energy and economy systems. Global climate agreements have so far been slow and largely ineffective. However, as the latest IPCC report made clear, it is now urgent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to minimize the costs of disruptive climate change. The COP26 meeting (2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference) taking place in a few weeks in Glasgow will be a key opportunity for action. There are a number of paths proposed towards decarbonizing our energy use with existing technologies. The science is clear, and the stakes are high. It is past time to take bold action. —Susan Trumbore, Editor in Chief


We Need Accomplices, Not Allies in the Fight for an Equitable Geoscience

"I detail my struggles to balance science, activism, and anguish as a black geoscientist in Minneapolis over the last year. I suggest that a riskier and deeper involvement in the work of equity and inclusion is necessary to transform our discipline into a diverse, equitable, and inclusive space where all people can thrive." Jones


Good, Soon, and Cheap – Earthquake Early Warning by Smartphone

Fixed smartphone networks can provide robust early warning of earthquakes at far lower costs than traditional scientific arrays, which is an important consideration for regions with limited resources. Brooks et al.

The Highs and the Lows of Megathrust Earthquakes

Why does low-frequency energy come from the shallow part of ruptures, and the high frequencies from deep? Yin & Denolle

Permanence of Nature-Based Climate Solutions at Risk

Conserving native ecosystems helps sequester carbon and mitigate climate change, but new statistical modeling questions the permanence of California’s carbon-rich forests with climate change. Coffield et al.; Viewpoint by Anderegg

Sedimentary Tepees Record Ocean Chemistry

Sedimentary structures from evaporative coastal environments indicate carbonate saturation, offer insight in mid-Mesozoic ocean chemistry and potentially even earlier times. Smith et al.

Need for Rational Thinking for Predicting Floods and DroughtsX

To plan policies that manage flood and drought risk, is it sufficient to follow the science? The better path uses the best science, which draws insight from integrated multidisciplinary research. Di Baldassarre et al.

Is Earth's Albedo Symmetric Between the Hemispheres?

The two hemispheres feature the same planetary albedo despite a larger land fraction in the north, because storms over the southern ocean are cloudier than their northern counterparts. Datseris & Stevens

Steady but Slow Progress on the Long Road Towards Gender Parity

The historic disproportionate attrition of women among geoscience faculty is decreasing, but how long will it take to reach gender parity if current trends of progress continue? Ranganathan et al.; Viewpoint by Hastings

Magnetic Record of Early Nebular Dynamics

Magnetized particles in a meteorite suggest strong magnetic fields in the early solar nebula. Fu et al.; Viewpoint by Nichols

Atoll Seismometer Detection of Solitary Ocean Waves

Seismic recordings from the South China Sea indicate that subtle, daily tilting of shorelines due to passing internal ocean waves can be measured on land, promising new constraints on ocean dynamics. Shaddox et al.

Order in Turbulence

Extracting order from turbulence is difficult, even under the most idealized conditions. A new scaling theory quantifies how eddies influence temperature gradients in geophysical turbulence. Gallet & Ferrari; Viewpoint by Vallis

Subduction Zone Earthquakes: Fast and Slow, Weak and Strong

What causes slow earthquakes in subduction zones? New insights from numerical models suggest that a mixture of strong and weak rocks might be the cause. Behr et al.

Himalayan Tectonics in the Driver’s Seat, Not Climate?

Earth’s oscillating climate is a natural guess to explain cyclic patterns in erosion, but new sediment data suggests that cyclicity may emerge from tectonic processes adding material to the Himalaya. Mandal et al.; Viewpoint by Codilean & Sadler

Bottom-up Meets Top-down Estimates of Wetland Methane Emissions

An innovative integration of models and satellite observations indicates weak temperature sensitivity of CH4 emissions from tropical wetlands, but temperature sensitivity is high at higher latitudes. Ma et al.; Viewpoint by Thompson


Satellite-based Rainfall Estimates

Offering improved data for hydroclimatic extremes, Talchabhadel et al. [2021] correct poor-performing satellite-based rainfall estimates with gauge data and also fill gauge data gaps using well-performing satellite-based rainfall estimates. —Jonathan H. Jiang, Earth and Space Science

Long-term Space Weather

Solar wind activity varies on distinct multi-year cycles, and Yermolaev et al. [2021] present an analysis consistent with the Gleissberg Cycle (~100-year periodicity) and our recent approach to a minimum in solar wind properties. This stage has implications for recent benign space weather, which is likely to increase over the coming 11-year cycles. —Mary Hudson, AGU Advances

Rock Glacier Dynamics

Cusicanqui et al. [2021] reveal how rock glaciers respond to climate change. Using detailed measurements of the geometry and flow of Laurichard rock glacier over 67 years, the team shows the distinctive behavior of these landforms through periods of warming and cooling. —Ann Rowan, JGR: Earth Surface

Featured AGU Book

A new book, Earth Observation Using Python: A Practical Programming Guide, presents an introduction to basic Python programming that can be used to create functional and effective visualizations from Earth observation satellite data sets.

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