Extreme Temperature Diary- Friday February 5th, 2020/ Main Topic: A New Watchdog Role For NASA And Gavin Schmidt

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: A New Watchdog Role For NASA And Gavin Schmidt

Dear Diary. One result of Biden’s election is that climate work done by NOAA and NASA won’t but curtailed via any budget cuts by a would be second Trump administration. I’m expecting just the opposite to happen now given the importance that Bidden has put on the climate crisis, and indeed we see that the first shoe dropped this week. NASA’s funding to observe Earth’s climate system may be increased as new satellites launch requiring a bigger staff to analyze data. The logical person to become a climate advisor for NASA is Gavin Schmidt who has been the most prominent and outspoken scientist from that organization for many years.

Here is a Washington Post article encapsulating Gavin’s expanded role and what he can bring to the table to continue protecting our fragile climate system through advising on policy:


The Energy 202: Biden creates new climate adviser role at NASA

By Dino Grandoni

Feb. 3, 2021 at 5:56 a.m. PST

By Dino Grandoni and Andrew Freedman

with Alexandra Ellerbeck

NASA is elevating one of its top climate scientists to a new role, a move meant to put greater focus at the space agency on studying the causes and consequences of global warming under President Biden.

Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, will serve in the newly created position of senior climate adviser. He is being brought on in an acting capacity until NASA’s incoming administrator, who has yet to be named, makes a permanent appointment.

The Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The creation of the new high-level climate position is in line with the Biden administration’s plan to marshal all federal agencies into action on climate change. 

And the choice of Schmidt, one of the nation’s most well-respected and outspoken modelers of how Earth’s atmosphere traps heat, is another sign the Biden administration will argue for aggressive cuts in emissions.

Steve Jurczyk,  NASA’s acting chief, said in a statement the move “will enable the agency to more effectively align our efforts to help meet the administration’s goals for addressing climate change.”

Though more famous for space exploration, NASA has a dual mission that includes studying our home planet. 

The new adviser will guide NASA’s administrator and other top leaders, as well as serve as a resource to other federal officials, according to senior administration officials.

Central to the agency’s climate work is its fleet of satellites that enables policymakers and activists to monitor carbon emissions, deforestation, land use change, snow cover, ice sheets and other shifts in the landscape, with many data sets offered freely to the public and dating back to the 1970s. NASA has a slew of climate-focused space missions coming up in the next few years.

Glacial ice is seen from the window during a NASA flight in 2018. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

The agency, however, has not had a single point person on climate change issues, despite the role it plays in gathering critical data on the Earth.

NASA’s climate adviser role is among a number of new positions focused on climate change under Biden. The two most prominent appointees are former secretary of state John F. Kerry, now serving as the president’s special envoy on climate, and former Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy, now Biden’s domestic climate czar.

The move at NASA represents a sharp shift from the Trump administration’s management of the agency. 

Trump’s White House sought to shift NASA’s focus away from studying Earth and toward exploring space with its funding requests.

Lori Garver, a former deputy NASA administrator under Barack Obama, said the role is “a fantastic and timely addition to NASA and Gavin is the right person to take on the task.”

“Most of what we know about earth systems science comes from satellites and the agency has a major role to play in driving solutions and assisting society with adaptation measures that can lessen human suffering,” she added.

Bidisha Bhattacharyya, deputy director for climate and energy policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, agrees the new position is “an encouraging sign” but would like to see the Biden administration should double the amount spent on NASA’s Earth science program.

“NASA has been grossly underappreciated as a climate agency,” she said.

NASA’s Earth science portfolio is funded at a level of $2 billion for the current fiscal year and includes money for satellites, supercomputers and more beyond just climate change. This compares to a human space exploration budget of $6.6 billion out of a total agency budget of $23.3 billion. 

Schmidt is outspoken about the need to cut emissions and has not shied away from policy discussions.

But he sees his role as distinct from any policy opinions. “I’m not being tapped for this role because they particularly want my views on policy,” he said, adding NASA is a policy-neutral organization. “I’m looking forward to seeing where science falls on the table but I’m not going to suddenly start designing cap-and-trade systems based on NASA science.”

The Oxford-trained climatologist has appeared as a guest on “The Daily Show” and co-founded one of the first climate science blogs. In 2011, he received an award from the American Geophysical Union, the largest society of Earth scientists, for his work informing the public about rising temperatures.

Schmidt has published numerous scientific papers and oversees NASA’s surface temperature data set. His research areas include improving the accuracy of climate models and understanding climate variability, both from natural fluctuations and human-driven changes. He worked under renowned climate scientist James Hansen, who stepped down from running the institute in 2013.

A rocket launches in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP)

Schmidt will remain in New York for the next few months as he figures out how he can best serve the new administration, he said. His lab, situated in Manhattan above the restaurant used as the exterior of the diner on “Seinfeld,” is largely disconnected from the political scene in Washington.

He added the position does not upend the organizational chart or make him the gatekeeper of NASA climate science, but rather is intended to help add more specific expertise for decision-making and intergovernmental efforts, including bringing climate science considerations into decisions on NASA’s operations.

For example, the agency’s launchpads and other facilities in Cape Canaveral, Fla., are vulnerable to damage from hurricanes as well as long-term sea level rise, as are installations in Virginia and other parts of the country. 

“Right now there is not going to be a formal change to who I work for and what I do. In a couple of months it will be clearer what role this really is, whether I am the right person to do that, and whether we want to make things more permanent.”

Here are more climatological notes:

Here is some more weather and climate news from Friday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have  put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity.

Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:

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Guy Walton…”The Climate Guy”

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