James Hansen

James Hansen

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James E. Hansen heads the NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Goddard Institute for Space Studies
The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies , at Columbia University in New York City, is a component laboratory of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Earth-Sun Exploration Division and a unit of The Earth Institute at Columbia University...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center
Goddard Space Flight Center
The Goddard Space Flight Center is a major NASA space research laboratory established on May 1, 1959 as NASA's first space flight center. GSFC employs approximately 10,000 civil servants and contractors, and is located approximately northeast of Washington, D.C. in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA. GSFC,...

 in Greenbelt, Maryland
Greenbelt, Maryland
Greenbelt is a city in Prince George's County, Maryland, United States. Contained within today's City of Greenbelt is the historic planned community now known locally as "Old Greenbelt" and designated as the Greenbelt Historic District...

. He has held this position since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

.

After graduate school, Hansen continued his work with radiative transfer models
Atmospheric radiative transfer codes
An Atmospheric radiative transfer model, code or simulator calculates radiative transfer of electromagnetic radiation through a planetary atmosphere, such as the Earth's.- Methods :...

, attempting to understand the Venusian atmosphere
Atmosphere of Venus
The atmosphere of Venus is much denser and hotter than that of Earth. The temperature at the surface is 740 K , while the pressure is 93 bar. The Venusian atmosphere supports opaque clouds made of sulfuric acid, making optical Earth-based and orbital observation of the surface impossible...

. Later he applied and refined these models to understand the Earth's atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention , and reducing temperature extremes between day and night...

, in particular, the effects that aerosols and trace gases have on Earth's climate. Hansen's development and use of global climate model
Global climate model
A General Circulation Model is a mathematical model of the general circulation of a planetary atmosphere or ocean and based on the Navier–Stokes equations on a rotating sphere with thermodynamic terms for various energy sources . These equations are the basis for complex computer programs commonly...

s has contributed to the further understanding of the Earth's climate.

Hansen is best known for his research in the field of climatology
Climatology
Climatology is the study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time, and is a branch of the atmospheric sciences...

, his testimony on climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

 to congressional committees in 1988 that helped raise broad awareness of global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

, and his advocacy of action to avoid dangerous climate change
Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change
The related terms "avoiding dangerous climate change" and "preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system" date to 1995 and earlier, in the Second Assesment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change and previous science it cites.In 2002, the United Nations...

. In recent years, Hansen has become an activist
Activism
Activism consists of intentional efforts to bring about social, political, economic, or environmental change. Activism can take a wide range of forms from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, political campaigning, economic activism such as boycotts or preferentially patronizing...

 for action to mitigate the effects of climate change, which on a few occasions has led to his arrest.

In 2009 his first book, Storms of My Grandchildren
Storms of My Grandchildren
Storms of My Grandchildren is climate scientist James Hansen's first book, published by Bloomsbury Press in 2009. The book is about threats to people and habitability for life on earth from global warming.-Themes:...

, was published.

Early life and education


Hansen was born in Denison
Denison, Iowa
Denison is a city in Crawford County, Iowa, United States, along the Boyer River. The population was 7,339 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Crawford County.-Geography:Denison is located at ....

, Iowa
Iowa
Iowa is a state located in the Midwestern United States, an area often referred to as the "American Heartland". It derives its name from the Ioway people, one of the many American Indian tribes that occupied the state at the time of European exploration. Iowa was a part of the French colony of New...

. He was trained in physics and astronomy in the space science
Space science
The term space science may mean:* The study of issues specifically related to space travel and space exploration, including space medicine.* Science performed in outer space ....

 program of James Van Allen
James Van Allen
James Alfred Van Allen was an American space scientist at the University of Iowa.The Van Allen radiation belts were named after him, following the 1958 satellite missions in which Van Allen had argued that a Geiger counter should be used to detect charged particles.- Life and career :* September...

 at the University of Iowa
University of Iowa
The University of Iowa is a public state-supported research university located in Iowa City, Iowa, United States. It is the oldest public university in the state. The university is organized into eleven colleges granting undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees...

. He obtained a B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 in Physics and Mathematics with highest distinction in 1963, an M.S.
Master of Science
A Master of Science is a postgraduate academic master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The degree is typically studied for in the sciences including the social sciences.-Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay:...

 in Astronomy in 1965 and a Ph.D.
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 in Physics, in 1967, all three degrees from the University of Iowa. He participated in the NASA graduate traineeship from 1962 to 1966 and, at the same time, between 1965 and 1966, he was a visiting student at the Institute of Astrophysics at the University of Kyoto and in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Tokyo
University of Tokyo
, abbreviated as , is a major research university located in Tokyo, Japan. The University has 10 faculties with a total of around 30,000 students, 2,100 of whom are foreign. Its five campuses are in Hongō, Komaba, Kashiwa, Shirokane and Nakano. It is considered to be the most prestigious university...

. Hansen then began work at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Goddard Institute for Space Studies
The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies , at Columbia University in New York City, is a component laboratory of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Earth-Sun Exploration Division and a unit of The Earth Institute at Columbia University...

 in 1967.

Research and publications


As a college student at the University of Iowa
University of Iowa
The University of Iowa is a public state-supported research university located in Iowa City, Iowa, United States. It is the oldest public university in the state. The university is organized into eleven colleges granting undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees...

, Hansen was attracted to science and the research done by James Van Allen's space science
Space science
The term space science may mean:* The study of issues specifically related to space travel and space exploration, including space medicine.* Science performed in outer space ....

 program in the physics and astronomy department. A decade later, his focus shifted to planetary research that involved trying to understand the climate change on earth that will result from anthropogenic changes of the atmospheric composition.

Hansen has stated that one of his research interests is radiative transfer in planetary atmospheres, especially the interpretation of remote sensing
Remote sensing
Remote sensing is the acquisition of information about an object or phenomenon, without making physical contact with the object. In modern usage, the term generally refers to the use of aerial sensor technologies to detect and classify objects on Earth by means of propagated signals Remote sensing...

 of the Earth's atmosphere and surface from satellites. Because of the ability of satellites to monitor the entire globe, they may be one of the most effective ways to monitor and study global change. His other interests include the development of global circulation models to help understand the observed climate trends, and diagnosing human impacts on climate.

Atmosphere of Venus


In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hansen published several papers on the planet Venus
Venus
Venus is the second planet from the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. The planet is named after Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky, reaching an apparent magnitude of −4.6, bright enough to cast shadows...

 following his Ph.D. dissertation. Venus has a high brightness temperature
Brightness temperature
Brightness temperature is the temperature a black body in thermal equilibrium with its surroundings would have to be to duplicate the observed intensity of a grey body object at a frequency \nu....

 in the radio frequencies compared to the infrared. Hansen proposed that the hot surface was the result of aerosols trapping the internal energy of the planet. More recent studies have suggested that several billion years ago Venus's atmosphere
Atmosphere of Venus
The atmosphere of Venus is much denser and hotter than that of Earth. The temperature at the surface is 740 K , while the pressure is 93 bar. The Venusian atmosphere supports opaque clouds made of sulfuric acid, making optical Earth-based and orbital observation of the surface impossible...

 was much more like Earth's than it is now, and that there were probably substantial quantities of liquid water on the surface, but a runaway greenhouse effect
Runaway greenhouse effect
A runaway greenhouse effect is not a clearly defined term, but is understood to mean an event analogous to that which is believed to have happened in the early history of Venus, where positive feedback increased the strength of its greenhouse effect until its oceans boiled away...

 was caused by the evaporation of that original water, which generated a critical level of greenhouse gas
Greenhouse gas
A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone...

es in its atmosphere.

Hansen continued his study of Venus by looking at the composition of its clouds. He looked at the near-infrared reflectivity of ice clouds, compared them to observations of Venus, and found that they qualitatively agreed. He also was able to use a radiative transfer model
Atmospheric radiative transfer codes
An Atmospheric radiative transfer model, code or simulator calculates radiative transfer of electromagnetic radiation through a planetary atmosphere, such as the Earth's.- Methods :...

 to establish an upper limit to the size of the ice particles if the clouds were actually made of ice. Evidence published in the early 1980s showed that the clouds consist mainly of sulfur dioxide
Sulfur dioxide
Sulfur dioxide is the chemical compound with the formula . It is released by volcanoes and in various industrial processes. Since coal and petroleum often contain sulfur compounds, their combustion generates sulfur dioxide unless the sulfur compounds are removed before burning the fuel...

 and sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong mineral acid with the molecular formula . Its historical name is oil of vitriol. Pure sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid. The salts of sulfuric acid are called sulfates...

 droplets.

By 1974, the composition of Venus' clouds had not yet been determined, with many scientists proposing a wide variety of compounds including liquid water and aqueous solutions of ferrous chloride. Hansen and Hovenier used the polarization of sunlight reflected from the planet to establish that the clouds were spherical, and had a refractive index
Refractive index
In optics the refractive index or index of refraction of a substance or medium is a measure of the speed of light in that medium. It is expressed as a ratio of the speed of light in vacuum relative to that in the considered medium....

 and cloud drop effective radius
Cloud drop effective radius
The cloud drop effective radius is a weighted mean of the size distribution of cloud droplets. The term was defined in 1974 by James E. Hansen and Larry Travis as the ratio of the third to the second moment of a droplet size distribution to aid in the inversion of remotely sensed data...

 which eliminated all of the proposed cloud types except sulfuric acid. Kiyoshi Kawabata and Hansen expanded upon this work by looking at the variation of polarization on Venus. They found that the visible clouds are a diffuse haze rather than a thick cloud, which confirmed the same results obtained from transits across the sun.

The Pioneer Venus project
Pioneer Venus project
The Pioneer mission to Venus consisted of two components, launched separately. Pioneer Venus 1 or Pioneer Venus Orbiter was launched in 1978 and studied the planet for more than a decade after orbital insertion in 1978. Pioneer Venus 2 or Pioneer Venus Multiprobe sent four small probes into the...

 was launched in May 1978 and reached Venus late that same year. Hansen collaborated with Larry Travis and other colleagues in a 1979 Science article that reported on the development and variability of clouds in the ultraviolet spectrum. They conclude that there are at least three different cloud materials that contribute to the images: a thin haze layer, sulfuric acid clouds, and an unknown ultraviolet absorber below the sulfuric acid cloud layer. The linear polarization data obtained from the same mission confirmed that the low- and mid-level clouds were sulfuric acid with radius of about 1 micrometer. Above the cloud layer was a layer of submicrometre haze.

Global temperature analysis


The first GISS global temperature analysis was published in 1981. Hansen and his co-author analyzed the surface air temperature at meteorological stations focusing on the years from 1880 to 1985. Temperatures for stations closer together than 1000 kilometers were shown to be highly correlated, especially in the mid-latitudes, which provided a way to combine the station data to provided accurate long-term variations. They conclude that global mean temperatures can be determined even though meteorological stations are typically in the Northern hemisphere and confined to continental regions. Warming in the past century was found to be , with warming similar in both hemispheres. When the analysis was updated in 1988, the four warmest years on record were all in the 1980s. The two warmest years were 1981 and 1987.

With the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, 1992 saw a cooling in the global temperatures. There was speculation that this would cause the next couple years to be cooler because of the large serial correlation in the global temperatures. Bassett and Lin found the statistical odds of a new temperature record to be small. Hansen countered by saying that having insider information shifts the odds to those that know the physics of the climate system, and that whether there is a new temperature record depends upon the particular data set used.

The temperature data was updated in 1999 to report that 1998 was the warmest year since the instrumental data began in 1880. They also found that the rate of temperature change was larger than any time in instrument history, and conclude that the recent El Nino was not totally responsible for the large temperature anomaly in 1998. In spite of this, the United States had seen a smaller degree of warming, and a region in the eastern U.S. and the western Atlantic Ocean had actually cooled slightly.

2001 saw a major update to how the temperature was calculated. It incorporated corrections due to the following reasons: time-of-observation bias, station history changes, classification of rural/urban stations, the urban adjustment based on satellite measurements of night light intensity, and relying more on rural station than urban. Evidence was found of local urban warming in urban, suburban and small-town records.

The anomalously high global temperature in 1998 due to El Niño
El Niño-Southern Oscillation
El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is a quasiperiodic climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean roughly every five years...

 resulted in a brief drop in subsequent years. However, a 2001 Hansen report in the journal Science states that global warming continues, and that the increasing temperatures should stimulate discussions on how to slow global warming. The temperature data was updated in 2006 to report that temperatures are now warmer than a century ago, and conclude that the recent global warming is a real climate change and not an artifact from the urban heat island effect. The regional variation of warming, with more warming in the higher latitudes, is further evidence of warming that is anthropogenic in origin.

In 2007, Stephen McIntyre
Stephen McIntyre
Stephen McIntyre is a Canadian mathematician, former minerals prospector, and semi-retired mining consultant who is best known as the founder and editor of Climate Audit, a blog devoted to the analysis and discussion of climate data...

 notified GISS that many of the U.S. temperature records from the Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) displayed a discontinuity around the year 2000. NASA corrected the computer code used to process the data and credited McIntyre with pointing out the flaw. Hansen indicated that he felt that several news organizations had overreacted to this mistake. In 2010, Hansen published a paper entitled "Global Surface Temperature Change" describing current global temperature analysis.

Black carbon


Hansen has also contributed toward the understanding of black carbon
Black carbon
In Climatology, black carbon or BC is a climate forcing agent formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass, and is emitted in both anthropogenic and naturally occurring soot. It consists of pure carbon in several linked forms...

 on regional climate. In recent decades, northern China has experienced increased drought, and southern China has received increased summer rain resulting in a larger number of floods. Southern China has had a decrease in temperatures while most of the world has warmed. In a paper with Menon and colleagues, through the use of observations and climate models results, they conclude that the black carbon heats the air, increases convection and precipitation, and leads to larger surface cooling than if the aerosols were sulfates.

A year later, Hansen teamed with Makiko Sato to publish a study on black carbon using the global network of AERONET
AERONET
AERONET - the AERONET is a network of ground-based sun photometers which measure atmospheric aerosol properties. The measurement system is a solar-powered CIMEL Electronique 318A spectral radiometer that measures Sun and sky radiances ata number of fixed wavelengths within the visible and...

 sun photometers. While the location of the AERONET instruments did not represent a global sample, they could still be used to validate global aerosol climatologies. They found that most aerosol climatologies underestimated the amount of black carbon by a factor of at least 2. This corresponds to an increase in the climate forcing of around , which they hypothesize is partially offset by the cooling of non-absorbing aerosols.

Estimations of trends in black carbon emissions show that there was a rapid increase in the 1880s after the start of the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

, and a leveling off from 1900-1950 as environmental laws were enacted. China and India have recently increased their emissions of black carbon corresponding to their rapid development. The emissions from the United Kingdom were estimated using a network of stations that measured black smoke and sulfur dioxide. They report that atmospheric black carbon concentrations have been decreasing since the beginning of the record in the 1960s, and that the decline was faster than the decline in black carbon producing fuel use.

A 2007 paper used the GISS climate model in an attempt to determine the origin of black carbon in the arctic. Much of the arctic aerosol comes from south Asia. Countries such as the United States and Russia have a lower contribution that previously assumed.

Dangerous anthropogenic interference


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international environmental treaty produced at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development , informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from June 3 to 14, 1992...

 is an international environmental treaty that was aimed at stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system
Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change
The related terms "avoiding dangerous climate change" and "preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system" date to 1995 and earlier, in the Second Assesment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change and previous science it cites.In 2002, the United Nations...

.

In 2003 Hansen wrote a paper called Can We Defuse the Global Warming Time Bomb? where he argues that human-caused forces on the climate are now greater than natural ones, and that this, over a long time period, can cause large climate changes. He further states that a lower limit on “dangerous anthropogenic interference” is set by the stability of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. His view on actions to mitigate climate change is that "halting global warming requires urgent, unprecedented international cooperation, but the needed actions are feasible and have additional benefits for human health, agriculture and the environment."

In a 2004 presentation at the University of Iowa, Hansen announced that he was told by high-ranking government officials not to talk about how anthropogenic influence could have a dangerous effect on climate because it's not understood what dangerous means, or how human are actually affecting climate. He describes this as a Faustian bargain because atmospheric aerosols have health risks, and should be reduced, but doing so will effectively increase the warming effects from .

Hansen and coauthors propose that the global mean temperature is a good tool to diagnose dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Two elements are particularly important when discussing dangerous anthropogenic interference: sea level rise and the extinction of species. They describe a business as usual scenario, which has greenhouse gases growing at approximately 2% per year, and an alternate scenario, in which greenhouse gases concentrations decline. Under the alternate scenario, sea levels could rise by 1 meter per century, causing problems due to the dense population in coastal areas. But this would be minor compared to the 10 meter increase in sea level under the business as usual scenario. Hansen describes the situation with species extinction similarly to sea level rise. Assuming the alternate scenario, the situation is not good, but it is much worse for business as usual.

The concept of dangerous anthropogenic interference was clarified in a 2007 paper. They find that further warming of 1 °C would be highly disruptive to humans. An alternative scenario would keep the warming to below this if climate sensitivity were below 3 °C for doubled . The conclusion is that levels above 450 ppm are considered dangerous, but that reduction in non- greenhouse gases can provide temporary relief from drastic cuts. Further, they find that arctic climate change has been forced by non- constituents as much as . They caution that prompt action is needed to slow growth and prevent a dangerous anthropogenic interference.

Climate model development and projections


Vilhelm Bjerknes began the modern development of the general circulation model in the early 20th century. The progress of numerical modeling was slow due to the slow speed of early computers and the lack of adequate observations. It wasn't until the 1950s that the numerical models were getting close to being realistic. Hansen's first contribution to numerical climate models came with the 1974 publication of the GISS model. He and his colleagues claimed that the model was successful in simulating the major features of sea-level pressure and 500mb heights in the North American region.

A 1981 Science publication by Hansen and a team of scientists at Goddard concluded that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would lead to warming sooner than previously predicted. They used a one-dimensional radiative-convective model that calculates temperature as a function of height. They reported that the results from the 1D model are similar to the more complex 3D models, and can simulate basic mechanisms and feedbacks. Hansen predicted that temperatures would rise out of the climate noise by the 1990s, much earlier than predicted by other researches. He also predicted that it would be difficult to convince politicians and the public to react.

By the early 1980s the computational speed of computers, along with refinements in climate models, allowed longer experiments. The models now included physics beyond the previous equations, such as convection schemes, diurnal changes, and snow depth calculations. The advances in computational efficiency, combined with the added physics, meant the GISS model I could be run for five years. They showed that global climate can be simulated reasonably well with a grid-point resolution as coarse as 1000 kilometers.

The first climate prediction computed from a general circulation model that was published by Hansen was in 1988, the same year as his well-known Senate testimony. It used the second generation of the GISS model to estimate the change in mean surface temperature based on a variety of scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions. Hansen concluded that global warming would be evident within the next few decades, and that it would result in temperatures at least as high as during the Eemian. He argued that, if the temperature rises above the 1950-1980 mean for a few years, it is the "smoking gun" pointing to human-caused global warming.
In 2006, Hansen and colleagues compared the observations with the projections made by Hansen in his 1988 testimony before the United States Congress. They described the intermediate scenario as the most likely, and that real-world greenhouse gas forcing has been closest to this scenario. It contained the effects of three volcanic eruptions in the fifty year projections, with one in the 1995, whereas the recent Mount Pinatubo
Mount Pinatubo
Mount Pinatubo is an active stratovolcano located on the island of Luzon, near the tripoint of the Philippine provinces of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga. It is located in the Tri-Cabusilan Mountain range separating the west coast of Luzon from the central plains, and is west of the dormant and...

 eruption was in 1991. They found that the observed warming was similar to two of the three scenarios. The warming rates of the two most modest warming scenarios are nearly the same through the year 2000, and they were unable to provide a precise model assessment. They did note that the agreement between the observations and the intermediate scenario was accidental because the climate sensitivity
Climate sensitivity
Climate sensitivity is a measure of how responsive the temperature of the climate system is to a change in the radiative forcing. It is usually expressed as the temperature change associated with a doubling of the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere.The equilibrium climate...

 used was higher than current estimates.

A year later, he joined with Rahmstorf
Stefan Rahmstorf
Stefan Rahmstorf is a German oceanographer and climatologist. Since 2000, he has been a Professor of Physics of the Oceans at Potsdam University. He received his Ph.D. in oceanography from Victoria University of Wellington...

 and colleagues comparing climate projections with observations. The comparison is done from 1990 through January 2007 against physics-based models that are independent from the observations after 1990. They show that the climate system may be responding faster than the models indicate. Rahmstorf and coauthors show concern that sea levels are rising at the high range of the IPCC projections, and that it is due to thermal expansion and not from the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets.

Following the launch of spacecraft capable of determining temperatures, Roy Spencer and John Christy
John Christy
John R. Christy is a climate scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville whose chief interests are satellite remote sensing of global climate and global climate change. He is best known, jointly with Roy Spencer, for the first successful development of a satellite temperature...

 published the first version of their satellite temperature measurements
Satellite temperature measurements
The temperature of the atmosphere at various altitudes as well as sea and land surface temperatures can be inferred from satellite measurements. Weather satellites do not measure temperature directly but measure radiances in various wavelength bands...

 in 1990. Contrary to climate models and surface measurements, their results showed a cooling in the troposphere
Troposphere
The troposphere is the lowest portion of Earth's atmosphere. It contains approximately 80% of the atmosphere's mass and 99% of its water vapor and aerosols....

. In 1998, Wentz and Schabel determined that orbital decay had an effect on the derived temperatures. Hansen compared the corrected troposphere temperatures with the results of the published GISS model, and concluded that the model is in good agreement with the observations, noting that the satellite temperature data had been the last holdout of global warming denialists
Climate change denial
Climate change denial is a term used to describe organized attempts to downplay, deny or dismiss the scientific consensus on the extent of global warming, its significance, and its connection to human behavior, especially for commercial or ideological reasons...

, and that the correction of the data would result in a change from discussing whether global warming was occurring to what is the rate of global warming, and what should be done about it.

Hansen has continued the development and diagnostics of climate models. For instance, he has helped look at the decadal trends in tropopause
Tropopause
The tropopause is the atmospheric boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere.-Definition:Going upward from the surface, it is the point where air ceases to cool with height, and becomes almost completely dry...

 height, which could be a useful tool for determining the human "fingerprint" on climate. , the current version of the GISS model is Model E. This version has seen improvements in many areas, including upper-level winds, cloud height, and precipitation. This model still has problems with regions of marine stratocumulus
Marine stratocumulus
Marine stratocumulus is a type of stratocumulus cloud that form in the stable air off the west coast of major land masses. The Earth spins on its axis, which results in the Coriolis force pushing the ocean surface water away from the coast in the mid-latitudes...

 clouds. A later paper showed that the model's main problems are having too weak of an ENSO
El Niño-Southern Oscillation
El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is a quasiperiodic climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean roughly every five years...

-like variability, and poor sea ice modeling, resulting in too little ice in the Southern Hemisphere and too much in the Northern Hemisphere.

Climate forcings, feedbacks, and sensitivity


In 2000 he authored a paper called Global warming in the twenty-first century: an alternative scenario in which he presents a more optimistic way of dealing with global warming focusing on non-CO2 gases and black carbon in the short run, giving more time to make reductions in fossil fuel emissions. He notes that the net warming observed to date is roughly as big as that expected from non-CO2 gases only. This is because CO2 warming is offset by climate-cooling aerosols emitted with fossil fuel burning and because at that time non-CO2 gases, taken together, were responsible for roughly 50% of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas warming.

In a paper published May 18, 2007, Hansen discussed the potential danger of "fast-feedback" effects causing ice sheet
Ice sheet
An ice sheet is a mass of glacier ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than 50,000 km² , thus also known as continental glacier...

 disintegration, based on paleoclimate data. George Monbiot
George Monbiot
George Joshua Richard Monbiot is an English writer, known for his environmental and political activism. He lives in Machynlleth, Wales, writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and is the author of a number of books, including Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain and Bring on the...

 reports "The IPCC predicts that sea levels could rise by as much as 59 centimetres (1.9 ft) this century. Hansen’s paper argues that the slow melting of ice sheets the panel expects doesn’t fit the data. The geological record suggests that ice at the poles does not melt in a gradual and linear fashion, but flips suddenly from one state to another. When temperatures increased to 2–3°C (3.6–5.4°F) above today’s level 3.5 million years ago, sea levels rose not by 59 centimeters but by 25 metres (82 ft). The ice responded immediately to changes in temperature."

Hansen stresses the uncertainties around these predictions. "It is difficult to predict time of collapse in such a nonlinear problem ... An ice sheet response time of centuries seems probable, and we cannot rule out large changes on decadal time-scales once wide-scale surface melt is underway." He concludes that "present knowledge does not permit accurate specification of the dangerous level of human-made [greehouse gases]. However, it is much lower than has commonly been assumed. If we have not already passed the dangerous level, the energy infrastructure in place ensures that we will pass it within several decades."

Responsibility for climate change


Hansen notes that in determining responsibility for climate change, the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on climate is not determined by current emissions, but by accumulated emissions over the lifetime of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
By this measure the U.K. is still the largest single cause of climate change, followed by the U.S. and Germany, even though its current emissions are surpassed by the Peoples Republic of China.

On public policy, Hansen is critical of what he sees as efforts to mislead the public on the issue of climate change. He points specifically to the Competitive Enterprise Institute
Competitive Enterprise Institute
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a non-profit think tank founded on March 9, 1984 in Washington, D.C. by lobbyist Fred L. Smith, Jr to advance economic liberty and fight over-regulation by big government...

's commercials with the tagline "carbon dioxide—they call it pollution, we call it life", and politicians who accept money from fossil fuel interests and then describe global warming as "a great hoax." He also says that changes needed to reduce global warming do not require hardship or reduction in the quality of life, but will also produce benefits such as cleaner air and water, and growth of high-tech industries. He was a critic of both the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations' stances on climate change. Addressing the potential effects of climate change, Hansen has stated in an interview in January, 2009, "We cannot now afford to put off change any longer. We have to get on a new path within this new administration. We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world. America must take the lead."

Hansen has been particularly critical of the coal industry, stating that coal contributes the largest percentage of anthropogenic carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. He acknowledges that a molecule of carbon dioxide emitted from burning coal has the same effect as a molecule emitted from burning oil. The difference is where the fuel originally resides. He says that most oil comes from Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, and that no matter how fuel-efficient automobiles become, the oil will eventually be burned and the emitted. In a 2007 testimony before the Iowa Utilities Board, he stated that the United States has a large reservoir of coal, which makes it a resource that can be controlled through action by U.S. politicians, unlike oil which is controlled by other countries. He has called for phasing out coal power
Coal phase out
A fossil fuel phase-out are plans for transport electrification, decommissioning of operating fossil fuel-fired power plants and prevention of the construction of new fossil-fuel-fired power stations. The purpose of this is to decrease the high concentration of greenhouse gas emissions, which are...

 completely by the year 2030.

During his testimony before the Iowa Utilities Board in 2007, Hansen likened coal trains to "death trains" and asserted that these would be "no less gruesome than if they were boxcars headed to crematoria, loaded with uncountable irreplaceable species." In response, the National Mining Association stated that his comparison "trivialized the suffering of millions" and "undermined his credibility." Citing the reactions of "several people" and "three of his scientific colleagues" as his primary motivation, Hansen stated that he certainly did not mean to trivialize suffering by the families who lost relatives in the Holocaust and then apologized saying he regretted that his words caused pain to some readers.

Hansen in his 2009 open letter to President Obama advocates a "Moratorium and phase-out of coal plants that do not capture and store CO2". In his first book Storms of My Grandchildren, similarly, Hansen discusses his Declaration of Stewardship the first principle of which requires "a moratorium on coal-fired power plants that do not capture and sequester carbon dioxide". Hansen also has spoken against cap and trade, instead advocating what he believes would be a progressive carbon tax
Carbon tax
A carbon tax is an environmental tax levied on the carbon content of fuels. It is a form of carbon pricing. Carbon is present in every hydrocarbon fuel and is released as carbon dioxide when they are burnt. In contrast, non-combustion energy sources—wind, sunlight, hydropower, and nuclear—do not...

 at source carbon as oil, gas or coal, with a 100% dividend returned to citizens in equal shares

Honors and awards


Hansen was elected to the National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

 in 1996 for his "development of pioneering radiative transfer models and studies of planetary atmospheres; development of simplified and three-dimensional global climate models; explication of climate forcing mechanisms; analysis of current climate trends from observational data; and projections of anthropogenic impacts on the global climate system." In 2001, he received the 7th Annual Heinz Award in the Environment (endowed with US$250,000) for his research on global warming, and was listed as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People
Time 100
Time 100 is an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, as assembled by Time. First published in 1999 as a result of a debate among several academics, the list has become an annual event.-History and format:...

 in 2006. Also in 2006, the American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association for the Advancement of Science
The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists, defending scientific freedom, encouraging scientific responsibility, and supporting scientific education and science outreach for the...

 (AAAS) selected James Hansen to receive their Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility "for his courageous and steadfast advocacy in support of scientists' responsibilities to communicate their scientific opinions and findings openly and honestly on matters of public importance."

In 2007, Hansen shared the US $1 million Dan David Prize
Dan David Prize
The Dan David Prize annually awards 3 prizes of $1 million each awarded by the Dan David Foundation and Tel Aviv University to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution in the fields of science, technology, culture or social welfare. There are three prize categories - past, present and...

 for "achievements having an outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social impact on our world". In 2008, he received the PNC Bank Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service
Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service
The Common Wealth Awards of Distinguished Service were created under the will of the late Ralph Hayes, an influential American business executive and philanthropist. Hayes conceived the awards to reward and encourage the best of human performance worldwide. Hayes served on the board of directors...

 for his "outstanding achievements" in science. At the end of 2008, Hansen was named by EarthSky Communications and a panel of 600 scientist-advisors as the Scientist Communicator of the Year, citing him as an "outspoken authority on climate change" who had "best communicated with the public about vital science issues or concepts during 2008."

In 2009, Hansen was awarded the 2009 Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal
Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal
The Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal is the highest award for atmospheric science of the American Meteorological Society. It is presented to individual scientists, who receive a medal...

, the highest honor bestowed by the American Meteorological Society
American Meteorological Society
The American Meteorological Society promotes the development and dissemination of information and education on the atmospheric and related oceanic and hydrologic sciences and the advancement of their professional applications. Founded in 1919, the American Meteorological Society has a membership...

, for his "outstanding contributions to climate modeling, understanding climate change forcings and sensitivity, and for clear communication of climate science in the public arena."

Hansen won the 2010 Sophie Prize
Sophie Prize
The Sophie Prize is an international environment and development prize and is awarded annually. It was established in 1997 by the Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder and his wife Siri Dannevig, and it is named after Gaarder's novel Sophie's World. An award ceremony is set for June 22 in Oslo, Norway...

, set up in 1997 by Norwegian Jostein Gaarder, the author of the 1991 best-selling novel and teenagers' guide to philosophy "Sophie's World", for his " key role for the development of our understanding of human-induced climate change."

Allegations of censorship


Hansen has stated that NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 administrators have tried to influence his public statements about the causes of climate change
Attribution of recent climate change
Attribution of recent climate change is the effort to scientifically ascertain mechanisms responsible for recent changes observed in the Earth's climate...

. Hansen said that NASA public relations staff were ordered to review his public statements and interviews after a December 2005 lecture at the American Geophysical Union
American Geophysical Union
The American Geophysical Union is a nonprofit organization of geophysicists, consisting of over 50,000 members from over 135 countries. AGU's activities are focused on the organization and dissemination of scientific information in the interdisciplinary and international field of geophysics...

 in San Francisco
San Francisco, California
San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...

. NASA responded that its policies are similar to those of any other federal agency in requiring employees to coordinate all statements with the public affairs office without exception. Two years after Hansen and other agency employees described a pattern of distortion and suppression of climate science by political appointees, the agency’s inspector general found that the NASA Office of Public Affairs had mischaracterized the science of climate change intended for the public.

Hansen has also appeared on 60 Minutes
60 Minutes
60 Minutes is an American television news magazine, which has run on CBS since 1968. The program was created by producer Don Hewitt who set it apart by using a unique style of reporter-centered investigation....

stating that the George W. Bush White House edited climate-related press releases reported by federal agencies to make global warming seem less threatening. He also stated that he was unable to speak freely without the backlash of other government officials, and that he has not experienced that level of restrictions on communicating with the public during his career.

Trials for fossil fuel chiefs


In 2008 interviews with ABC News
ABC News
ABC News is the news gathering and broadcasting division of American broadcast television network ABC, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company...

, The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

, and in a separate op-ed, Hansen has called for putting fossil fuel
Fossil fuel
Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms. The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years...

 company executives, including the CEOs of ExxonMobil
ExxonMobil
Exxon Mobil Corporation or ExxonMobil, is an American multinational oil and gas corporation. It is a direct descendant of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil company, and was formed on November 30, 1999, by the merger of Exxon and Mobil. Its headquarters are in Irving, Texas...

 and Peabody Coal, on trial for "high crimes
High Crimes
High Crimes is a 2002 American thriller film directed by Carl Franklin. The screenplay by Yuri Zeltser and Grace Cary Bickley is based on a novel by Joseph Finder.-Plot:...

 against humanity and nature", on the grounds that these and other fossil-fuel companies had actively spread doubt and misinformation about global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

, in the same way that tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

 companies tried to hide the link between smoking and cancer.

Arrests



On June 23, 2009, James Hansen, along with 30 other protesters including actress Daryl Hannah
Daryl Hannah
Daryl Christine Hannah is an American film actress. After making her screen debut in 1978, Hannah starred in a number of Hollywood films throughout the 1980s, notably Blade Runner, Splash, Wall Street and Roxanne and Kill Bill.-Early life:Hannah was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Susan...

, were arrested on misdemeanor
Misdemeanor
A misdemeanor is a "lesser" criminal act in many common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished much less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions and regulatory offences...

 charges of obstructing police and impeding traffic, during a protest against mountaintop removal mining in Raleigh County, West Virginia
Raleigh County, West Virginia
As of the census of 2000, there were 79,220 people, 31,793 households, and 22,096 families residing in the county. The population density was 130 people per square mile . There were 35,678 housing units at an average density of 59 per square mile...

. The protesters intended to enter the property of Massey Energy Company, but were blocked by a crowd of several hundred coal miners and supporters. Hansen said that mountaintop removal for coal mining "[provides] only a small fraction of our energy" and "should be abolished." Hansen called on President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 to abolish mountaintop coal mining.

Hansen and about 100 other people were arrested in September 2010 in front of the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 in Washington, DC. The group was seeking a ban on mountaintop removal or surface mining.

Hansen and 142 other activists were arrested in August 2011, at another demonstration in front of the White House. Hansen urged President Obama to reject the Keystone pipeline extension, intended to carry more synthetic crude oil from Canada's Athabasca Oil Sands
Athabasca Oil Sands
The Athabasca oil sands are large deposits of bitumen, or extremely heavy crude oil, located in northeastern Alberta, Canada - roughly centred on the boomtown of Fort McMurray...

 to US markets.

Critics of Hansen



Andrew Freedman, an environmental journalist and columnist at the Washington Post, believes the American Meteorological Society
American Meteorological Society
The American Meteorological Society promotes the development and dissemination of information and education on the atmospheric and related oceanic and hydrologic sciences and the advancement of their professional applications. Founded in 1919, the American Meteorological Society has a membership...

 erred in giving Hansen its 2009 Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal
Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal
The Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal is the highest award for atmospheric science of the American Meteorological Society. It is presented to individual scientists, who receive a medal...

: "By citing his 'clear communication of climate science in the public arena,' they may have actually sanctioned his political advocacy. Such advocacy... threatens to paint the AMS as having a political agenda too." Other AMS members have also criticized the award.

Physicist Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson
Freeman John Dyson FRS is a British-born American theoretical physicist and mathematician, famous for his work in quantum field theory, solid-state physics, astronomy and nuclear engineering. Dyson is a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists...

 is critical of Hansen's climate-change activism. "The person who is really responsible for this overestimate of global warming is Jim Hansen. He consistently exaggerates all the dangers... Hansen has turned his science into ideology.” Dyson "doesn’t know what he’s talking about", Hansen responded. "He should first do his homework." Dyson stated in an interview that the argument with Hansen was exaggerated by the New York Times, stating that he and Hansen are "friends, but we don't agree on everything."

After Hansen's arrest in West Virginia, New York Times columnist Andrew Revkin
Andrew Revkin
Andrew C. Revkin is a journalist and author who has spent a quarter of a century covering subjects ranging from the assault on the Amazon to the Asian tsunami, from the troubled relationship of science and politics to climate change at the North Pole. From 1995 through 2009, he covered the...

 wrote: "Dr. Hansen has pushed far beyond the boundaries of the conventional role of scientists, particularly government scientists, in the environmental policy debate." In 2009, Hansen advocated the participation of citizens at a March 2 protest at the Capitol Power Plant
Capitol Power Plant
The Capitol Power Plant is a power plant which provides steam and cooled water for the United States Capitol and other buildings in the Capitol Complex. Though it was originally built to supply the Capitol complex with electricity, the plant has not produced electricity for the Capitol since 1952...

 in Washington, D.C. Hansen stated, "We need to send a message to Congress and the president that we want them to take the actions that are needed to preserve climate for young people and future generations and all life on the planet".

New Yorker journalist Elizabeth Kolbert
Elizabeth Kolbert
Elizabeth Kolbert is an American journalist and author. She is best known for her 2006 book Field Notes from a Catastrophe, and as an observer and commentator on environmentalism for The New Yorker magazine.-Youth and education:...

 believes Hansen is "increasingly isolated among climate activists." Eileen Claussen
Eileen Claussen
Eileen B. Claussen is the President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing credible information and developing innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change...

, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Pew Center on Global Climate Change
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions transitioned from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change in November 2011 under the leadership of its president, Eileen Claussen...

, said that "I view Jim Hansen as heroic as a scientist.... But I wish he would stick to what he really knows. Because I don't think he has a realistic idea of what is politically possible..."

New York Times climate columnist Christa Marshall asks if Hansen still matters in the ongoing climate debate, noting that he "has irked many longtime supporters with his scathing attacks against President Obama's plan for a cap-and-trade system." "The right wing loves what he's doing," said Joseph Romm, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress
Center for American Progress
The Center for American Progress is a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization. Its website states that the organization is "dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action." It has its headquarters in Washington D.C.Its President and Chief...

, a think tank
Think tank
A think tank is an organization that conducts research and engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, and technology issues. Most think tanks are non-profit organizations, which some countries such as the United States and Canada provide with tax...

. Hansen said that he had to speak out, since few others could explain the links between politics and the climate models. "You just have to say what you think is right," he said.

External links