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In Memoriam

AGU and the Earth and space science community is comprised of more than 110,000 experts and science-engaged individuals from around the world. We want to provide you with a place to share and remember those in our community who have passed away. 

If you would like to add someone, please fill out our "In Memoriam" formAGU is posting only what is written and submitted via the form. 


Sir John Houghton, PhD

  • Passed: April 15, 2020
  • Age: 88
  • Cause: Complications from COVID-19
  • Discipline/Focus/Section: Global climate change; science policy
  • Institution/Organization: Oxford University, UK Meteorological Office and U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
  • Thoughts & Tributes:
  • About: Dr. Houghton was among the most influential early leaders of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was set up in 1988 to advise policymakers on the science of global climate change. He was the chief editor of the IPCC’s first three reports and chaired or co-chaired the panel’s scientific assessment committee as well. In 2007, Dr. Houghton was among the IPCC scientists who collected the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on behalf of the organization, which shared the award that year with former vice president Al Gore “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”

L. Douglas (Doug) James

  • Passed: 2 April 2020
  • Cause: COVID-19
  • Discipline/Focus/Section: Hydrology
  • Thoughts & Tributes: 
  • About: In 1992, Doug James became the founding director for the newly launched Hydrologic Sciences Program t the U.S. National Science Foundation. Over the 18 years that he oversaw the program, he grew it into the successful program we know today. He was a tremendous force in hydrology, championing many of the causes and programs that led to major advances of our science and how we do our science. His leadership, generosity and humanity will be greatly missed by all who knew him. For those that did not know him personally, know that many of the programs and advances in hydrologic sciences that we benefit from today were started or profoundly influenced by his leadership. Sadly, his passing will likely not be the first, nor will it be the last through this pandemic. We will remember Doug James and all those whose lives have been cut short by this virus in our hearts and, when we come out of the other side of this, we will celebrate their lives and their accomplishments together.

Donald Kennedy, PhD

W. Timothy Liu, PhD

  • Passed: 24 July 2020
  • Age:73
  • Cause: Complications related to pancreatic cancer
  • Discipline/Focus/Section: Air-sea interaction/ocean sciences
  • Institution/Organization: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
  • Thoughts & Tributes:
  • About: Dr. Liu was a brilliant and highly valued member of the ocean-atmosphere interaction and climate research community. He started his career first studying Physics in Ohio University where he received his B.A degree, graduating Summa Cum Laude in 1971. He then pursued graduate studies in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington, receiving his M.S. degree in 1974 and Ph.D degree in 1978. During his research at the University of Washington as a student, Dr. Liu developed an innovative method to parameterize air-sea turbulent fluxes. This method, generally referred to as the Liu-Katsaros-Businger (LKB) algorithm, has been widely used by the ocean and climate research community. His pioneering paper describing this method in the Journal of Atmospheric Sciences in 1979 has been cited close to 800 times as reported in Web of Science. The LKB algorithm was the basis for an improved algorithm in the 1990s, the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere (TOGA)-Couple Ocean and Response Experiment (COARE) algorithm. The LKB and the COARE algorithms remain the most widely used methods today to estimate air-sea turbulent fluxes. Since joining JPL in 1979, Dr. Liu has made seminal contributions to the applications of satellite observations for weather, climate, and ocean research including the areas of ocean-atmosphere interaction and water and energy cycles. Among many of his outstanding accomplishments, he developed the first credible method in the early 1980s to use satellite data to estimate evaporation and latent heat flux at the air-sea interface. This has motivated generations of scientists in the past three-to-four decades to apply and improve his method for broad areas of interdisciplinary research. Dr. Liu has published 175 peer-reviewed papers, many well-cited and in high-impact journals. His research findings were highlighted in many JPL and NASA press releases. Dr. Liu has acted as the lead of NASA’s Ocean Vector Wind Science Team for 17 years and as Project Scientist for NASA’s NSCAT and QuikSCAT scatterometer missions. Dr. Liu has served in numerous committees and panels for domestic and international research programs as well as advisory boards and panels for various missions and research programs of NASA and international space agencies. His superb accomplishments were recognized by numerous prestigious awards throughout his career. He has been a Senior Research Scientist since 1993. He was elected Fellow of the American Meteorological Society in 2000, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007, and Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2011. He received the Space Systems Award of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2006 and the Verner E. Suomi Award of the American Meteorological Society in 2010. Dr. Liu received NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement in 1990, NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal in 1998, and NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 2012.

Donald R. Nielsen, PhD

  • Passed: 24 July 2020
  • Age: 88
  • Cause: Complications from surgery
  • Discipline/Focus/Section: Hydrology and Soil Physics
  • Institution/Organization: University of California, Davis
  • Thoughts & Tributes: In Memoriam – Donald R. Nielsen
  • About: Dr. Don Nielsen was a pioneer and leader in the recognition of the linkages between agronomy and the hydrologic and environmental sciences beginning in the 1970’s. His work on solute transport in unsaturated soils and on the role of soil heterogeneity on infiltration and contaminant transport helped launch a revolution in hydrologic thinking. He received his doctorate in soil physics at Iowa State University and spent his career at the University of California, Davis where, in addition to advising graduate students and international visitors, he helped develop graduate degrees in hydrology and earth sciences. He served the University as chair of both the Department of Land, Air and Water as well as Agronomy and Range Science as well as Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. His service to our profession was profound, serving as AGU Hydrology Section President, American Society of Agronomy President, Soil Science Society of America President and editor of AGU’s Water Resources Research. As a scientist, Don was honored by many awards including AGU Fellow, the Don and Betty Kirkham International Soil Physics Medal and the AGU Horton Medal for “his fundamental work in hydrology, combined with his uncanny love of the profession”. Don’s support for early career and international scientists, along with his passion for science and the human spirit will be greatly missed in the future. To not hear his booming voice and his words of encouragement is a loss for all but also a lesson to each of us to carry on his values towards science, education and humanity.

Valerian Tatarskii, PhD

  • Passed: 19 April 2020
  • Age:90
  • Cause:Unknown
  • Discipline/Focus/Section: Propagation of sound and light waves in a turbulent medium. (
  • Institution/Organization: Institute of Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences, NOAA Wave Propogation Laboratory (Boulder)
  • Thoughts and Tributes:
  • About: Professor Tatarskii was recognized worldwide as a founder of a new field in physics, Wave Propagation in Random Media, which involves the propagation and scattering of electromagnetic and acoustic waves in a turbulent atmosphere and fluctuating ocean. This study later progressed into his main research area: studies of electromagnetic (radio-frequency and optical) wave propagation in random media.

Last updated: 10 August 2020 at 7:32 a.m. ET