THE AMERICAN GEoPHYsICAL Union (AGU) is a nonprofit organization of geophysicists with over 50,000 members from over 140 countries. The AGU's activities are focused on the collection and dissemination of scientific information in the interdisciplinary and international field of geophysics. The geophysical sciences include four fundamental areas: atmospheric and ocean sciences, solid-Earth sciences, hydrologic sciences, and space sciences. The AGU's mission is to promote the scientific study of Earth and its environment in space and to disseminate the results to the public; to encourage cooperation among scientific organizations involved in geophysics and related disciplines; to initiate and participate in geophysical research programs; and to advance the various geophysical disciplines through scientific discussion, publication, and dissemination of information. In December 2003, the AGU clearly stated its position on global warming, explicitly pointing to human activities as determining factors in changing the Earth's climate.
The AGU was established in 1919 by the National Research Council and for more than 50 years operated as an unincorporated affiliate of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1972 the union was incorporated in the District of Columbia and membership was opened to scientists and students worldwide. The AGU offers to its members a wide range of publications, meetings, and educational and other activities that support research in the Earth and space sciences. Many AGU members are involved in crucial research for the future of the planet on issues such as global warming, climate change, ozone depletion, natural hazards, water supply and quality, and other environmental factors. The AGU's membership includes many of the world's foremost geoscientists from industry, academia, and government.
The AGU is an individual membership society and membership has increased each year, doubling during the 1980s. About 20 percent of the members are students. Members and associates receive Eos, the AGU's weekly newspaper, and Physics Today, a magazine produced by the American Institute of Physics. All members may vote and hold office. The AGU's fellows are selected from the membership because of their acknowledged expertise in areas of the geophysical sciences.
The AGU organizes an annual meeting in San Francisco every December, known as the fall meeting. This is the largest annual scientific conference in the world. The AGU also holds a joint assembly co-sponsored with other societies such as the Geochem-ical Society, the Mineralogical Society of America, the Canadian Geophysical Union, and the European Geosciences Union every spring in various locations around the world. Traditionally held in Baltimore, this spring meeting was moved to different locations, starting with Boston in 1998, due to declining interest. With the meeting in Nice, France, in 2003, the event was renamed the Joint Assembly. In addition to these meetings, which cover all areas of the geophysical sciences, the AGU also sponsors many specialized meetings that are intended to serve the needs of particular scientific disciplines or geographical areas, including the Ocean Sciences Meetings and Western Pacific Geophysical Meetings, which are held in even-numbered years. The Chapman Conferences are smaller, and highly-focused meetings.
The AGU Council runs the union, has full responsibility for all affairs of the AGU, and is its representative in its external relations. The Council consists of the AGU's president, the president-elect, the immediate past-president, the general secretary, the international secretary, the executive director, and the president and president-elect of each of the AGU's 11 scientific sections. The executive director serves as secretary to the Council. The Council usually meets twice a year, at the AGU's spring and fall meetings. The Executive Committee, composed of the president, the president-elect, the general secretary, the international secretary, and the executive director, conducts the affairs of the AGU between meetings of the Council according to the policy decisions of the Council.
Adopted in December 2003, "Human Impacts on Climate" is the AGU's official statement on global warming. They explicitly argue that human activities are increasingly altering the Earth's climate and the level of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere is already affecting the climate. The AGU strongly recommends enhancing national and international research and other efforts to support climate related policy decisions. They conclude that because science can serve as a useful tool to deal with natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurri canes, and drought, it can also provide an answer to human-caused global warming.
SEE ALSO: Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory; International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG).
BIBLIOGRAPHY. American Geophysical Union, www.agu .org (cited September 2007); Michael A. Toman and Brent Sohngen, Climate Change (Ashgate Publishing, 2004).
Luca Prono University of Nottingham
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