NASA News & Feature Releases
Hansen to Hand Over Reins of Goddard Institute for Space Studies Director
NEW YORK — James E. Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, has announced he is retiring as the GISS director and leaving government service. Peter Hildebrand, director of the Earth Sciences Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will serve as interim director until a new director is selected through a competitive process.
Hansen is the longest serving director in the institute's history. He came to GISS in a post-doctoral appointment in 1967, became a federal employee at GISS in 1972, and became director in 1981.
"It has been a great honor to work for NASA — I still remember my excitement while driving from Iowa to the Goddard Institute in 1967 — and now I look forward to working full-time on climate science and its implications for policy," said Hansen.
"Throughout his career, Jim Hansen has demonstrated the spirit of an American pioneer. He has pushed forward the frontier of our knowledge of Earth's climate system and of the impacts that humanity is having on Earth's climate", said Nicholas E. White, director of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at Goddard.
Hansen was trained in physics and astronomy in James Van Allen's space science program at the University of Iowa, receiving his bachelor's degree with highest distinction in physics and mathematics, master's degree in astronomy, and Ph.D. in physics in 1967. Except for 1969, when he was a National Science Foundation post-doctoral student at the Leiden Observatory in Holland, Hansen spent his professional career at GISS. Hansen was a visiting student at the Institute of Astrophysics, University of Kyoto and Department of Astronomy, Tokyo University, Japan from 1965-1966.
In his early research, Hansen used telescopic observations of Venus to extract detailed information on the physical properties of the cloud and haze particles that veil Venus. Since the mid-1970s, he has focused on studies and computer simulations of Earth's climate, working to understand the climate system and human impacts on global climate. Hansen's testimony before Congress in 1988 helped to raise the broad public awareness of the global climate change as an important issue for us all.
His research has been closely aligned with the development of increasingly sophisticated satellite platform measurements, such as the terrestrial radiation budget, ozone and weather-related data, and the need for increasingly sophisticated atmospheric models to assess and evaluate the information content and utility of these measurements. Current climate models are now able to reproduce the historical temperature record over the past century and to make climate change predictions for the future, keeping pace with NASA's measurements of solar energy variations, sea level change and polar ice loss with unprecedented precision and accuracy.
Hansen's climate analyses have been based not only on the very basic physics that goes into climate model design, but on the detailed studies of the geological ice core and isotope records that are used to constrain and confirm climate model sensitivity. In recent years Hansen has drawn attention to the danger of passing climate tipping points, producing irreversible climate impacts that would yield a different planet from the one on which civilization developed.
Hansen has received many honors worldwide. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1995; received the Heinz Award for the Environment, and the American Geophysical Union's Roger Revelle Medal in 2001; the World Wildlife Federation's Conservation Medal from the Duke of Edinburgh; and was designated by Time Magazine as one of the "World's Most Influential People" in 2006. In 2007, Hansen received the Dan David Prize in the field of Quest for Energy and the Leo Szilard Award of the American Physical Society for Outstanding Promotion and Use of Physics for the Benefit of Society. In 2009, he was awarded the American Meteorological Society's Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, and the Sophie and Blue Planet Prizes in 2010. In 2012, he was awarded the Stephen Schneider Award for Climate Science Communications by Climate One, an initiative of the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.
Hansen is also known for the book he wrote in 2009, Storms of My Grandchildren. He also serves as adjunct professor for Earth and Environmental Studies at Columbia University's Earth Institute.
GISS is NASA's cutting-edge Earth climate research laboratory. Major areas of GISS research include research measurements of Earth's changing climate, research on impacts humans are having on the climate, research on human impacts of climate change, research on climate modeling, and some research that makes use of climate models to study planetary atmospheres.
For more information about NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, visit: www.giss.nasa.gov
For more information about NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, visit: www.nasa.gov/goddard
This article was originally prepared as NASA GSFC release No. 13-020.