Earth System Science at
20 Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript
Interviewed by Rebecca Wright
National Weather Center, Norman, Oklahoma – 4 April 2011
Today is April 4, 2011. This oral history is being conducted with Dr.
Berrien Moore at the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma as
part of the Earth System Science at 20 Oral History Project for the
NASA Headquarters History Office. Interviewer is Rebecca Wright. Thank
you again for taking so much time out of your schedule today.
I’d like to start by asking, how did you first get involved in
this field? For nearly thirty years you’ve been a prominent participant
in both the scientific investigation area and policymaking aspects of
Well, I’m a great believer in fortune or luck, and I think I can
trace it to one day in the spring of 1976. I had several things happen
in my life. One, I had a Fulbright [Award, scholarship for international
research] and I was headed to Romania to continue my work in mathematics.
We had our child; our daughter was born in February of ’76. I
was in California lecturing in mathematics when I got a phone call from
the University of New Hampshire [Durham], and they asked me to go down
to a marine science meeting at Scripps [Institution of Oceanography,
La Jolla, California].
I was at [University of California] Berkeley, and probably in classical
New Hampshire fashion of “Live free or die,” I was already
on the West Coast and therefore it was cheaper for me to go down there
and put in an appearance. It was, as I recall, March timeframe, and
I arrived a little bit late. It was an auditorium filled with people,
and I looked around and there was just one seat that I could identify,
and so I slipped into that seat. After a while, I had no idea what they
were talking about. They were talking about something in oceanography,
and I turned to the guy next to me, we just chatted, and I said, “Are
you following a lot of this?”
He said, “Well, yes,” it was something he knew about. He
asked what I was doing there, and I told him I was just covering for
the university. I thought it was interesting, but I didn’t really
understand very much of it. He said, “Where are you?”
I said, “University of New Hampshire.”
He said, “Well, I’ve just moved to the Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution [in Massachusetts].”
I said, “Oh, that’s interesting.” We talked some more,
and I told him I had this Fulbright to go to Romania, but I just wasn’t
sure I wanted to do it; I was becoming increasingly interested in applied
He said, “If you ever want to hang out in Woods Hole, I’m
sure I could get you comparable to the Fulbright. You could spend a
year in Woods Hole on your sabbatical.” That person was Bob [Robert
A.] Frosch. After getting back to New Hampshire and thinking about it
some more, I thought, “I think I’m going to do something
different. I feel guilty taking the Fulbright because I’m not
really as interested in the mathematics as I once was.” I had
become very interested in environmental issues and Earth science issues.
So that fall we go to Woods Hole and Jimmy [James E.] Carter’s
[Jr.] elected president, and in 1977 in April he nominates Bob Frosch
to be the NASA Administrator. By that time, I’d become friends
with Bob, and he said, “Well, I convinced you to come down to
Woods Hole. Maybe you can come down and spend some time at NASA every
once in a while. After all, they do Earth science.” I said, “Oh,
really?” That was the beginning, and I’ve thought to myself
a number of times since then, what if that seat hadn’t have been
there? But it was, and so that’s where it all began.
Another thing that happened very importantly—about the time that
Bob was nominated as the NASA Administrator, Bert [R. J.] Bolin, wonderful
Swedish scientist, was in Woods Hole to give a series of lectures on
the carbon cycle and on the buildup of CO2 [carbon dioxide] in the atmosphere
and on how much was going into the ocean. It was quite mathematical,
and I thought, “This is something I could contribute to.”
So I also got to know Bert Bolin very well, and he became a great mentor
of mine all the way up to within a week of when he died. He was just
a wonderful mentor. So that’s where it began.
During those next years, tell us how you acquired more knowledge and
your enthusiasm grew into this new field.
I think I had an opportunity in Woods Hole. There were two things. One
was a constant stream of seminars, and there were enough people in the
seminar you could sneak in the back and slowly learn. It was difficult
going because I didn’t know any oceanography or chemistry. The
other thing is the library was like L.L. Bean [catalog clothing company];
it was open twenty-four hours a day seven days a week, and so I had
a pattern of going to the library and spending about six or seven hours
reading journal articles about something that I found interesting. That
was just shopping, yet I think that the Bolin lectures on the carbon
cycle really gave me some focus, and the situation was that Bob was
good enough to suggest that I might stay at Woods Hole.
I talked to the University of New Hampshire, that I wasn’t really
going to be doing mathematics in the future and so maybe I should just
stay at Woods Hole. They then said, “Well, we’d really like
you to come back. And also if you’ve taken a sabbatical you’re
supposed to come back for a year.” I never knew if that was true
or not, but they told me it was true. So the dean of the College of
Engineering and Physical Sciences and Bob [Robert W.] Corell, who was
head of the marine program, convinced me to come back and they gave
Out of that $30,000 I could pay my salary, I could hire a grad [graduate]
student, and I could do whatever I wanted to do, but I was going to
essentially go on to soft money even though I still had tenure. I thought,
well, why not? I hired a young man to work with me. His name is Charlie
[Charles J.] Vörösmarty. He eventually became my first Ph.D.
student. He’s now heading the Environmental Studies and Water
Program at City [University] of New York, marvelous scholar.
We started up the Complex Systems Research Center. We termed it Complex
Systems because we thought trying to distinguish it from, say, a traditional
engineering system. If you think about a TV [television] as a system,
if you go in and take out some of the tubes or some of the transistors,
the TV won’t work anymore, and you wouldn’t say it’s
a system. Whereas in an ecological system, if you went and took out
a species, it would just evolve and become another system. We thought
that evolutionary capability is complex, how did that work? So we started
developing computer models of ecological systems or the carbon cycle
or things like that. It was really great fun, it was all starting afresh.
We grew the little Complex Systems Research Center up to about thirty
people over the next six or seven years, and then we had an opportunity
with the new building that was being developed on campus at New Hampshire
to bring the Complex Systems Group together with the Ice Coring Group
who did reconstructive paleoclimates. Then we brought in our Space Science
Center—there was a very distinguished Space Science Center at
New Hampshire—and our Oceans Modeling Group and our Oceans Experimental
Group. We brought all those together and formed the Institute for the
Study of Earth, Oceans and Space. That was in ’86, and I became
director in ’88.
That was another very interesting story, because in my view of the world,
Len [Lennard A.] Fisk was going to be the director. I was so sure of
that I took a sabbatical, my second sabbatical, in ’85-’86
to go work at the University of Paris [France] on carbon cycle in their
Institute for Physics and Chemistry of the Ocean [Laboratoire de Physique
et Chimie Marines, Université Pierre et Marie Curie]. That was
a great experience. Then, it was either the winter of ’86 or winter
of ’87, I got a phone call from Len Fisk. He said that he’d
been offered the position of [NASA] Associate Administrator for Earth
and Space Science [Space Science and Applications]. It was director
for all of science; it included Earth science, space science, material
science, life sciences—had all the sciences together. And what
did I think he should do? I said, “Len, you’ve really got
to take the position. This is a very important time. There are all these
large issues on the table, and we really need scientific leadership
at NASA. So you’ve got to take that job.”
He said, “I thought you would say that. As a consequence, you’ve
got to come back and head the Institute for Study of Earth, Oceans and
I said, “Oh, no.”
He said, “Well, I’m not going to take the other job, then.”
Len’s a pretty tough negotiator.
Yet I’d agreed with the French to stay, and so I spent three weeks
in France and three weeks in New Hampshire. That was the time that the
way you got back and forth was on TWA [Trans World] Airlines. I was
doing that flight all the time, and I would talk with the stewardesses
on TWA. We would think of what does TWA stand for, and I suggested it
stood for The Worst Airline, and they said, “No, no, it stands
for Try Walking Across.” We had great fun. It was a wonderful
experience to have that time in Paris, but also to begin to see the
Institute come into existence at New Hampshire. I served as interim
director with Roger [L.] Arnoldy and then I became formal director in
’88, and I did that for twenty years.
Also during the eighties, if I’m correct in my research, you were
part of a working group that was looking at the Earth Observing System
[EOS]. Can you tell me about the early days of those discussions?
Those were marvelous days. Dixon [M.] Butler was heading the working
group from the NASA side, and Burt [Burton I.] Edelson was the Associate
Administrator. It was called System Z. I think in part it was Burt’s
idea—maybe he was searching for some way in which he could get
more scientific support for Space Station [Freedom]. They had this concept
of a co-orbiting platform near Space Station which the astronauts could
go out to and work on, add instruments, take them off.
But that [low-Earth] orbit is not ideal to Earth observations. You don’t
see the high latitudes, for instance. So they then went from the co-orbiting
platform to make a copy of the co-orbiting platform and put that in
polar orbit. I remember there was once even some idea that they would
use some form of [Space] Shuttle servicing or robotic servicing to replicate
what the astronauts were going to do, because you’re not going
to put astronauts in polar orbit because those are not safe regions
as you go over the high latitudes. It never really made any sense as
to why this was connected with Space Station, but it was; that’s
the way it got going. Slowly the co-orbiting platform, which is not
an ideal orbit, vanished or faded into the ether. We ended up with [International]
Space Station in the inclined orbit, and in the polar orbit we had this
Earth Observing System.
I remember my wife asking me, “What’s the connection? How
do you get from one to the other?” I said, “Well, you would
leave Space Station, and you would return to Earth and probably end
up at Cape [Canaveral, Florida], and then you’d take a bus out
to Vandenberg [Air Force Base, California] and you’d get on a
rocket at Vandenberg and go up to polar orbit.” I mean, it’s
no connection whatsoever, but Burt had this idea of the co-orbiting
Space Station and ended up going to polar orbit.
It became then the Earth Observing System, and we stopped saying System
Z. We had a payload panel that was meeting and arguing about what should
be the instrumentation. At that time there were two platforms as I recall.
There was the morning platform and afternoon platform, which were not
unlike the morning weather satellite pose and the afternoon crossing
time, so that you would cross the equator at the same time every day,
so-called sun synchronous orbit. We then began to think about those,
what we might want to put on those platforms. I think there were a couple
of free-flyers, also. I think LAWS, the Laser Atmosphere Wind Sounder,
was going to go on a free-flyer. That was an instrument probably at
least ten years ahead of its time.
It was a very heady period because we really had the “sky’s
the limit” to think about this, so there was this major effort
on what you might like to do from space. But what was missing was there
wasn’t really a scientific rationale. It was a little bit ad hoc,
and that lack of an underpinning scientifically is what led to what
we often called the Bretherton Committee, which was a committee that
Francis [P.] Bretherton chaired to talk about Earth System Science.
That had about a four-year run.
It was very interesting to me to see what later people thought was a
brilliant marketing strategy, was really a reflection that scientists
tend to take a long time to do things. The committee was supposed to
report out in a year, but at the end of the year we didn’t have
anything to report. Shelby [G. Tilford] said, “Well, you’ve
got to report out something.” And so we created a little foldout
and it said “Earth System Science,” or something like that,
“A Preview.” That’s all we had, we had some ideas.
Another year goes by, and we had a lot of documentation by this time
but we still didn’t have the report finished, not by a long shot,
particularly because Francis just talks forever, and so it was going
to take forever to get this thing done. We published about a forty-pager,
and we said, “Earth System Science: An Overview.” So we
first had a preview, then a year later we had overview, and finally
we published the so-called Bretherton Document, which was a very thick
In fact, it’s interesting to me to think back—we all served
pro bono on all this, but the one perk was we got a little Radio Shack
[electronics retail store] laptop. I think they called it TR-80, and
it had sixty characters wide and four lines. That’s all you could
see. We wrote a monumental document on that four-lines by sixty-characters
[machine]. I don’t think I could do it now, but we wrote the Bretherton
I think the most interesting aspect of that whole period was when we
came up with what was called the Bretherton Diagram, even though Francis
didn’t have anything to do with it. John [A.] Dutton and I were
chairing a meeting of the Modeling Team. John Dutton and I shared an
interest in addition to modeling the Earth, which was skiing. So we
decided to host this meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Our idea was
we’d get up early in the morning and work early from, say, seven
o’clock in the morning through breakfast up to noon, and then
we’d ski in the afternoons, and then at five or six o’clock
we’d come back and work up until maybe eight or nine, eleven o’clock
at night. That way, we’d put in more than a full day’s work,
and we’d get an afternoon off to ski.
It turned out we really made good progress that way. We were working
with the beginnings of the outline of this diagram that describes how
all the pieces of the planet work. The top half of the diagram was biogeochemical
cycles, the bottom half was the physical system, and partly what linked
the two was the hydrologic cycle. We were working on this evolving diagram,
and we were using an overhead projector—this was way before PowerPoint
[presentation software]—and we were shining the overhead projector
on the wall of the room that we were working in at the hotel.
The name of the hotel was the Snow Bunny Lodge. It had already caused
JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California] a little heartburn
to have this meeting at the Snow Bunny Lodge, but what really was going
to cause them heartburn is what happened. John [H.] Steele, who was
then the director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, was standing
beside the overhead projector adding some equations. John also is a
mathematical ecologist. This is one of those things where you saw an
accident about to happen, and you just froze, you didn’t say anything.
John was writing these equations on the transparency paper, and he stepped
back and he started looking at it. He saw a mistake in his equation,
and rather than walk to the projector, he just forgot what he was doing
and he walked to the wall and rewrote the equation on the wall with
[permanent] Magic Marker. So now we’re standing in the Snow Bunny
Lodge and we have to pay to have the wall painted. I remember John Dutton
and I saying, “Do you think we could slip this past JPL?”
The Bretherton Diagram began in the Snow Bunny Lodge in Jackson Hole,
Wyoming. Francis was not there, but I’m happy that it’s
called the Bretherton Diagram, because Francis is a great scientist.
We began at that meeting to describe exactly how we saw the Earth worked.
Now when you look at it, it looks very primitive, but it was the first
time we actually really tried to write down basic equations, looking
at the physical system, you might say the climatological system, and
then at the biogeochemical part, and then the feedbacks between the
tip of the water.
I think that all comes together in ’86. We made a presentation
at [NASA] Headquarters [Washington, DC]. I remember working on it in
1985 at AGU [American Geophysical Union] in San Francisco [California],
and we were really pushing to get the thing finished. In fact, I believe
it was in the spring of ’86 that I was in Paris partly, but Jim
[D. James] Baker, who later becomes the new administrator [of NOAA (National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)], John Dutton, myself, Francis—we
formed a little Kitchen Cabinet saying, “We’ve got to get
this thing finished.”
Then we also had the help of a very creative person, Payson [R.] Stevens,
who was a graphicist. He had the ability to pull all of this material
together with very good graphical imagery and it became really a monumental
document. That gave us the underpinning for the Earth Observing System.
Now you had the huge scientific case in the report of the Earth System
Science Committee, shorthand it’s called the Bretherton Report.
That set the stage for guiding the EOS Program. That, of course, is
a tough period, too, from about ’88 through ’92, ’93,
because the budget just wasn’t going to support the full-up program.
We went to a smaller spacecraft that was a little more terrestrial-focused,
and then the second one was a little more aquatic-focused, and the third
one was more chemistry- and atmospheric-focused. So we went away from
that morning and afternoon—even though in some sense we still
had it because the morning was the terrestrial and in the afternoon
we went to the so-called aquatic one.
We gave up several of the instruments. At one time there were going
to be two MODIS’s, a Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer
that was going to look at the land, primarily at atmosphere, and then
one that was going to look at the ocean that would look off nadir, not
look straight down. We had to give that up, and then the LAWS instrument,
the Laser Atmospheric Wind Sounder, went. I think there may have been
radar in the early payloads, and then that went.
Slowly there was a budget readjustment. I think, though, that in the
end we did remarkably well and the instruments have performed spectacularly
well. The amount of science that has come out—the citations would
just be endless, may be amongst the most productive of all. It certainly
is right up there with Hubble [Space Telescope] in terms of the productivity,
across a much wider scope of things, too, because Hubble is more than
just astrophysics. Earth Sciences really hit all areas of Earth Science.
I think that you would have to look at that as one of the great success
stories. I do regret that we lost the ability to fly the multiple copies,
to get long-time series. That was unfortunate, but NASA has trouble
with the idea of multiple copies of the same thing. They want to call
that operations, even though it’s not. It’s just science
that takes a long time to do.
During this evolution, how were you able to keep up with all of the
progress? Was that part of your involvement on the NASA committees,
or did you have other groups that you were instrumental in?
I think that where I ended up was in two main service areas. One was
chairing the NASA Science and Applications Advisory Council Committee,
and that was a very demanding job which I’ll come back to in a
second. Then the second was chairing the EOS Payload Panel, where we
were trying to cope with the downscaling of the various missions and
evolving it from the a.m./p.m. structure on large spacecraft over time
to the Terra/Aqua atmospheric chemistry program, and handle that restructuring
that had to take place.
The part that I look back on that I was pleased with was that we were
able in the Science and Applications Advisory Committee to come up with
one of the first strategic plans for all of science at NASA. It had
priorities within planetary, within astrophysics, within Earth Science—which
was basically a U.S. program—within the heliospheric, within the
life sciences. That strategic plan was consistent with, at least in
the astrophysics area, the decadal surveys that were coming out. In
the other areas where we were just beginning to have the first decadal
surveys or not even have those, we were able to get a community buy-in.
This was difficult, because you couldn’t do everything, and there
had to be compromises across the different areas, say, astrophysics
versus heliospheric. I think we ended up doing some fairly clever, some
very fundamental creative things.
At the beginning of that strategic planning exercise, heliospheric was
essentially approaching their science almost in exactly the same way
as the astrophysics, which were the great observatories, even though
that really wasn’t what the community wanted and resources were
not going to be there. So we ended up stepping away from the Solar Observatory,
and moving to a multiplicity of smaller missions that really are the
hallmark now of the heliospherics. In some ways, heliospheric has been
a very robust area of science, it has done extremely well. You have
a steady stream of new missions, a variety of scales, probably one of
the richest areas of P.I. [principal investigator] involvement.
And I think that reflected, coming out of in the 1991 or ‘92 timeframe,
that we came up with this new strategic vision for the Office of Space
Science and Applications. It really set the pattern for what science
did at NASA for the next ten, fifteen years. In astrophysics, the hallmark
were the four great observatories built around different parts of the
spectrum, just looking out at the different, if you will, wavelengths
or different regions of the spectrum, and I think that was a very creative
The planetary programs started looking at the outer planets versus the
closer-by ones. We started talking about some of the moons that might
be interesting to look at and really crafted a strategic vision for
what the planetary program could be. Then, as I mentioned, the heliospheric
was going to be built around stepping away from the great observatory
approach and doing it differently, a more robust approach, and then
the Earth Sciences was essentially the Bretherton EOS tradition. In
addition to that, a couple of other things were important to get off.
The TOPEX/ Poseidon [Ocean Topography Experiment] mission, where we’re
going to measure the topography of the ocean at very precise scales,
the upper-atmosphere research satellite was the predecessor to what
we could see, big platform of what we could do. Those were enormously
rich endeavors, but they really just set the stage for the U.S. program.
Did the multiplicity of the smaller missions coincide with some of the
direction that NASA was taking under [Daniel S.] Goldin’s leadership
[as NASA Administrator]?
No, this was pre-Goldin. Dan came in, and I think he liked what he saw
coming out of the heliospheric. I was beginning to wind up my tenureship
as chair of the committee under Dick [Richard H.] Truly and overlapped
Dan, I think, for one or two meetings. I think he came in the spring
of 1992, and then by the summer of ’92 I’d finished my chairmanship.
Certainly through the Payload Committee that I continued to serve on,
it was Dan’s insistence that we break up that a.m./p.m. into slightly
smaller missions. But this was still prior to the so-called “cheaper,
quicker, better” era, which I don’t think turned out to
be very successful. As someone said, two out of three, but not all three.
I found it interesting when you were talking about when you all get
together, that you knew you couldn’t do everything, but you were
able to compromise. Can you share some of the other thoughts about those
I think it came from people taking a very strong, scientific leadership
role, and one that I can point to is Mark [R.] Abbott. We were at a
meeting at Scripps with Ed [Edward A. Frieman]—Dan had formed
an outside group to come in and oversee alternative ways of doing business
on the EOS Program, and the Payload Committee was there, essentially
defending the actions or trying to find ways in which we might do it
differently. We saw that there was a very real budget pressure, and
in particular I remember Mark Abbott saying, “I have a harder
time justifying flying a MODIS that looks straight down and then a MODIS
tilt instrument that looks off nadir.”
For the ocean you can get more information that way, but you’re
paying a lot just to get that off-nadir look, namely a whole new instrument.
We thought maybe we could switch it back and forth or different things,
but in the end, we said what we’re going to have to do is trade
the perfect for the good and have one MODIS that does both atmospheres,
land and ocean, ice. Mark took some real heat from the oceanographic
community for putting that idea on the table, but it was absolutely
the right idea. Things were going to go, and I think Mark Abbott standing
up and saying, “We just have to make some tough decisions,”
set the tone for making other tough decisions. So it really came from
individual people willing to take some heat and look at it honestly
and say, “Well, if we’ve got to do this, we have to do this.
Let’s do it rationally.” In other words, it’s not
everything we want, but that’s just life.
During this time period, it’s still a new concept for all these
different type of scientists meeting together for one goal. Was establishing
the goals of what you all wanted to work for a difficult challenge to
There were a number of difficult [challenges]. The Abbott one that I
just mentioned is one, but there were lots of tough decisions. I think
there was something else happening then, and that was the e-mail. We
didn’t call it e-mail, it was tele-mail. And it was something
called ScienceNet, prior to the Web. The way it worked was there was
a company in Cambridge [Massachusetts], and tele-mail was nothing other
than an 800-number anywhere in the world that you could call. Not anywhere
in the world, but most places in the world. In effect, you were calling
a mainframe computer in Cambridge, and the mail was just file-swapping
within that computer. There was no Web, there were no servers, none
of that. But there was this tele-mail, and it was offering a form of
communication that was right at the heart of building a community. I’ve
thought about, “What if we’d not had tele-mail?” I
don’t think that any of this would have worked. It just would
have been too episodic; you couldn’t have gotten from one meeting
to the next, there wouldn’t have been enough connectivity. The
space for compromise would have shrunk rather than expanded. It just
wouldn’t have worked.
Somehow on these little TR-80 Radio Shack computers and tele-mail, we
began to form a much broader community that could work together. It
is hard to believe now how all of that came together, because the one
thing you couldn’t really do on the old tele-mail—and that’s
why when the Web came out and HTML [HyperText Markup Language] was there,
we flocked to that like bees on honey—because we could then share
pictures. Tele-mail was just text. There was this second-generation
breakthrough when all of a sudden now you could push imagery back and
forth, and that just revolutionized the whole nature of the world. In
the early days it was a really exciting period because you had this
I remember being in France, and if I were traveling, I always had to
figure out ways I could penetrate the French phone system because they
didn’t have the jacks. At one stage there was some way you could
do it with alligator clips. You would unscrew the mouthpiece and use
alligator clips, and you could connect out with your little laptop.
It’s interesting to think back—I remember the older European
scientists never used it, but all the young scientists were using tele-mail
like crazy. And of course now it’s a whole new world.
It also seemed like there was a mutual respect system among all of you
emerging scientists in these new fields, and that you were willing to
put your agendas for your own field aside to work toward a new field
that would help each other.
I think that there was that, and I think that, in addition, the problems
on which we wanted to work, which were gaining attraction, were these
large-scale environmental problems, most of which connected up with
the climate question. Not all—there was the CFCs [chlorofluorocarbons],
how the atmosphere worked. But invariably you found that the problem
required multiple disciplines to crack into. Even the relatively narrow
ones, like the fluorocarbon ozone hole, involved very different areas
of chemistry, so-called heterogeneous chemistry and so forth. But if
you looked at other topics like ocean carbon cycle, how much CO2 are
the oceans taking up, well, that involves the physics of the ocean,
the chemistry of the ocean, and the biology of the ocean, and all of
those play into that topic. So there were these areas where the subject
matter itself simply required multiple disciplines to work together.
I think there was another set of things that were taking place, and
that is that there were two organizations that were pushing forward.
One of those was the WCRP, the World Climate Research Program, that
really was laying out the physics of the climate problem at the large
scale, at the planetary scale, and within that you would have programs
like WOCE, the World Ocean Circulation Experiment. The World Ocean Circulation
Experiment gave a lot of the fundamental rationale to the TOPEX mission,
and very distinguished people like Carl Wunsch at MIT [Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, Cambridge] was pushing that forward. Then,
because that was pretty much the physics system, there was the movement
in the mid-eighties to capture more of the biogeochemistry aspect, and
that led to the formation of the International Geosphere Biosphere Program,
If you think back now to what we talked about with the Bretherton Diagram,
the bottom of the diagram was the physics of the system. That’s
the World Climate Research Program. The top of the diagram was the biology,
biogeochemistry. That’s the IGBP. The place they intersect and
where we used to have some battles was the water cycles. You had a program
within the IGBP which dealt with the water cycle, and then you had a
program within the World Climate Research Program that dealt with the
The IGBP program was called BAHC, Biological Aspects of the Hydrologic
Cycle, and the WCRP Program was called GEWEX [Global Energy and Water
Cycle Experiment]. Those two often dueled with one another. I was always
trying to get those people to stop fighting with one another, let’s
enjoy both of them. The two IGBP and WCRP began to work together, even
in difficult areas like the water cycle. We began every once in a while
to have a joint meeting with one another. When I was head of the Scientific
Committee of the IGBP, I would go to the WCRP meetings, and vice versa,
Larry [W. Lawrence] Gates would come to the IGBP meetings.
I had a vision that over a long period of time we would try to merge
those two organizations, but they have a structural difference. The
World Climate Research Program is part of the United Nations [UN] and
it sits within the climate arena in Geneva [Switzerland] as a UN body,
and the IGBP is a standalone organization, so it’s hard to put
those two different organizations together. But I think they gave, particularly
at the international level, a glue to the community and they really
set the stage. That was the way in which we orchestrated the scientific
work that was done as part of the Earth Observing System.
In fact, the Europeans then went on to fly their large platform and
completely reenergized the whole European Earth Science Program. I remember
Dixon Butler, as only Dixon could do—we were there to give a briefing
of our plans for the payloads of the Earth Observing System, and he
was to brief the European Space Agency—Dixon got carried away,
and at some stage he bellows out that, “We are going whole hog!”
and the Europeans had no idea what he said. So I piped up and I said,
“Tout jambon,” all ham. Well, whole hog is tout jambon also.
I don’t think Dixon ever slowed down. He was a great enthusiast.
He eventually ran afoul of a very difficult part of the EOS Program,
which was the Data and Information System. That was an area where I
think the convergence of what we needed versus where the industry was—we
were just a little ahead of our times so it ended up costing us a hell
of a lot of money to create the EOS Data and Information System. Whereas
if we’d added another four or five years, then that would have
been a piece of cake too. All of these things were evolving and co-evolving,
like tele-mail and the Internet, like the international scientific organizations,
like the space agencies, and the fact that so much of it converged—I’m
not going to quibble about parts of it that proved to be a heavy lift
simply because we weren’t quite there.
You mentioned just a second ago about the Europeans and moving toward
the same type of concepts. Talk about your workings with the international
community and how you’ve been able to help bring what they do
and what the Americans are trying to do to help globally.
It was very interesting to me, several aspects of foreign collaboration.
At first that was really U.S. and Europe and then U.S. and Japan, but
of course now it became much broader than that. I think the Europeans
really went to school on us, they really watched what we were doing.
I think they were somewhat envious. In the early stages it was really
a U.S.-dominated initiative because we got out so fast with the Bretherton
effort, with these opportunities to have access to these big spacecraft
coming out of the System Z. We had this co-alignment of talent in Washington
[DC], Fisk and Shelby at NASA and Mike [J. Michael] Hall over at NOAA
[National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration], and Bob Corell. When
I first started migrating out of my mathematics, he was heading geosciences
at NSF [National Science Foundation]. There really was an alignment
of a lot of forces—scientific, political, otherwise—that
gave the U.S. an enormous boost that really took us right up to the
year 2000 when we start launching.
The Europeans came along a little bit behind that, but one thing I do
observe is, boy, they sure don’t back up from it now. I think
that Europe really is—they’re certainly co-partners, and
scientifically there are very, very strong programs throughout Europe.
Huge initiative in the UK [United Kingdom] through the National Research
Council, the Max Planck entities in Germany have focused on these bigger
science problems now, with institutes being formed. The Hamburg Group
in Germany is still very strong. The French—in the early eighties,
the French were publishing in French journals. It was not an internationally
focused effort, the young scientists were not really flowering. Now
the French scientists are all over the world, major programs in Earth
Systems Science throughout France. They play both sides of the Left
Bank/Right Bank [in Paris]. You’ve got on the Right Bank the French
space agency, CNES [Centre National d'Études Spatiales], and
on the Left Bank you’ve got the European Space Agency. So, if
it doesn’t sell in one, get on the Metro [rail public transport]
and go over to the other one.
I have observed that Europe really has become very, very strong. Likewise
Japan, they’ve taken on these big topics. They have had some setbacks
when they lost something, like in the ADEOS [Advanced Earth Observing
Satellite] mission, but they really have made huge contributions. The
first big Earth-system-oriented super computer, the Earth simulator—the
thing’s the size of a soccer field, and, yes, it was set up to
demonstrate Japanese technological prowess in big computers, but also
really went after some big topics.
We really have begun to see an internationalization of the science,
and hence the IGBP and the WCRP. Those two big international organizations
have much less of U.S. dominance than they did at the beginning, much
more international. Programs in Japan and Europe and Russia and China
now are really contributing major pieces. We first had a major scientific
meeting in China, IGBP, in 1990, and at that stage, if I look at the
progress and the Chinese contributions to large-scale earth science
from 1990 to now, it is two generations and it’s a revolution.
I thought we might go back and revisit some of the work that you were
doing at the institute in New Hampshire and the accomplishments you
were making there and, of course, when you decided to leave in 2008.
I think one of the nice things that I was able to do—because I
was beginning to see clearly by participating in the activity where
Earth Science was going, and I was also meeting and working very closely
with a number of other senior colleagues who were graduating students—essentially
I saw that there was a real opportunity if we could build appointments
around research grants as opposed to a traditional academic teaching
with some research. So we created a research track at the institute
in New Hampshire where a person would have a very, very light teaching
load, maybe only one course every other year, but most of their funds
would come off research grants and we would tide them through rough
periods on the funding. We used that as a vehicle to grow the institute.
I think we started with about seventeen positions that were tenure track
and two research faculty, and we grew that eventually up to only about
twenty-three positions that were tenure track and about forty research
We were able to create the institute on a much faster time path than
traditional academic appointments would allow. If you’re only
going to grow your program maybe slightly faster than replacement cost—that
is, you have to wait for retirement in order to hire a new person, or
on a rare occasion you get one extra new person—that’s a
very slow path. By building it around research faculty and non-tenure-track
people, we accelerated the New Hampshire program rapidly at a time when
there were expanding research budgets and people saw that this was an
important topic. We had to train a whole new generation of students
to move into these new areas. It gave us a lot of flexibility.
I think that New Hampshire was not alone. You can see the same thing
happening at Penn State [Pennsylvania State University, University Park],
where Eric Barron and John Dutton were providing the leadership. Oregon
[State University, Corvallis] began to see the same thing with Abbott.
But I think in New Hampshire we really got out quick and we were able
to have a very robust program. We were graduating eight and ten Ph.D.s
a year. They were going all over the world, they were getting good jobs.
We were combining the satellite information with the modeling on big
topics, and I think that that was a very good period for us. I’m
a little bit nostalgic about that, because if I look at where the Earth
Science part of that enterprise has gone at New Hampshire, the last
two or three years it’s gone the other way with a lot of people
leaving, which is too bad. But for every time there is a season.
That’s true for you because you left New Hampshire yourself.
You know, when you’ve done something for twenty years, it was
time to go. I liked the new president that came in, Mark [W.] Huddleston.
We’d had a pretty shaky period before he got there in the 2005
and ‘06 timeframes where I think the university lost its way,
and I really hated not to have a working relationship with him because
I would have enjoyed that. But again, I’d been there for twenty
years. I kept thinking, “It’s going to be difficult to stay
around with a new director,” and yet you needed a new director.
Twenty years is enough. And I couldn’t quite figure out exactly
how that would work. I saw a wonderful little pillow somewhere in a
baby shop that said, “If Mommy says no, ask Grandmommy.”
I didn’t want to be the Grandmommy.
Yet I couldn’t figure out where to go. I looked at a couple of
possibilities. I was offered the directorship of an institute right
outside of Vienna [Austria], an institute I’d known very well,
the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. It was a modeling
systems analysis place that was focused on, I thought, really important,
good questions. I felt that would have been something that I would have
liked to have done, but it turned out that for family reasons it was
not the time to go abroad. Then I considered the opportunity at Woods
Hole, to be the director there, but I think that they decided to offer
that position to someone else, and I think that they chose the better
of the two candidates. So I was a little bit at loose ends.
Then Steve [Stephen W.] Pacala at Princeton [University, New Jersey]
came to me with an idea that I had known about, because the community
had been talking about this idea, of a think tank on climate that was
not only a think tank on climate, but also a think tank on climate communication.
Anyone who had been in this business for as long as, say, someone like
myself—you see that there’s this complete muddying of the
waters. Things that we know absolutely for sure about, which there is
zero scientific debate, get bollixed up with things about which we’re
not so sure.
You will find people saying things like, “We don’t know
that CO2 is increasing in the atmosphere or if that increase has anything
to do fossil fuels.” Well, yes, we know precisely how fast CO2
is going up in the atmosphere. We’ve made a daily measurement
of it since 1957, we have ice-core data before that. We know without
any question that it has increased by almost 40 percent since the Industrial
Revolution and that that increase is due to human activity, primarily
fossil-fuel burning and, secondarily, bad use in agriculture. There’s
no debate about that. Yet the body politic thinks that that’s
some big uncertain scientific question.
I had been, for a long time, concerned about the fact that people simply
were completely confused about what we know for sure, what we think
we know, what we don’t know, and all of that gets smeared out
and confused. If you look at the debate today, it’s worse than
ever. I think that maybe I could trace my idea to take on this new post
at Princeton [executive director of Climate Central] to 2008, because
I was very concerned that there was so much noise in the debate. I have
to look back and say, well, I hope I didn’t do it, but it’s
just gotten worse.
This is one of those times when I can’t look back with any pride
whatsoever about having done anything. I can’t point to a single
aspect of that period from 2008 up to now where I could say, well, we
made some progress. It’s only become worse, and that’s a
truly unfortunate thing because the problem’s not going away.
CO2 is a very long-lived gas in the atmosphere, and in order to stabilize
the concentration in the atmosphere, which is what we’re going
to have to do, you have to cut the emissions by something like 80 percent.
If you just stabilize the emissions, and we’re far from being
able to do that, then the atmospheric increase moderates but it keeps
right on going up ad infinitum. So you have to make a very huge change
in the energy system of the planet, and that’s not going to be
easy, and for it to get so filled with noise—if you’re trying
to do a very big task, you need to be as clear about it as possible.
So, I didn’t make a whole lot of success in terms of changing
how Americans think about climate. It’s almost as if I made it
Do you think it’s possibility that maybe you did well, but the
other side has chosen to hire communicators as well to diminish your
Yes, and I think that the scientific community, when we had the e-mail
hacks [Climatic Research Unit email controversy of November 2009], I
think we should have been clearer there. I think there were some statements
that you could find in the e-mail traffic that were less than our best,
and maybe we should have said that. Maybe we should have expressed some
criticism about that. I think a lot of that was just informal e-mail
chatter, and so I could understand it, but I do think that the community
might have been a little too tolerant and a little too, “Oh, well,
that was said poorly,” as opposed to saying, “That was really
a dumb thing to say. That’s inappropriate.” I think we’d
have been better if we’d have done that.
Whether or not it would have mitigated the so-called “Climategate,”
I don’t know, I don’t know. It got so blown out of proportion.
If you ask what would be the effect of looking at the fourth assessment
report of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and went
back and corrected every possible thing that might be criticized, you
would probably pull out three or four references and maybe change twenty
words. Not one fundamental conclusion would be at all different, it
was purely superficial.
In fact, there were hearings last week where the House Science Committee
Chair, Ralph [M.] Hall, has brought in some people who are the age-old
critics, and they’re all saying, “Well, this was a completely
cooked-up deal.” Yet the reality is that last year, 2010, was
the warmest year on record, even though December was cool. Of the decade,
from 2000 to 2010, it was the coolest December in that period, but the
year was the warmest year on record. And even though December was cool,
it was still the 310th consecutive month that is warmer than that particular
monthly average for the twentieth century.
If you took the twentieth-century average temperatures for December,
December 2010 was warmer than that. If you took November 2010 and compared
it to the Novembers of the twentieth century, November was warmer. So
was October, so was September, so was August. In fact, you have to go
back 310 months to find a single month which was not warmer. Then after
that, you have to go back another couple hundred months to find the
next one. So there is no question the planet’s warming. That’s
just observations. Arctic Sea ice is at an all-time low, and it’s
probably going to continue that way. These are just observations.
Now, there is scientific issue about how fast will the climate change,
what the future will hold. There are lots of scientific uncertainties,
but the fact that the planet’s warming and the fact that CO2’s
a greenhouse gas and the fact that it’s increasing in the atmosphere
and that it increases in the atmosphere due to humans—about those
things, there’s no debate. Yet people on the [Capitol] Hill right
now are now hammering away at NASA, “Oh, well, you can’t
study the climate.” It’s just nonsense. It reminds me of
the Scopes Monkey Trial [1925 court case on the teaching of the theory
of evolution] or something.
It’s interesting, too, if you see the language. I think this is
something that we really have failed to do as scientists, is to watch
the way people say things. “Do you believe in climate change?”
This is not a belief-based system. Somehow we’ve gotten into a
situation in the country where, for a sophisticated society that is
highly dependent upon science and engineering technology, it is woefully
illiterate about science and engineering technology issues.
The Hill—it was interesting when John [E.] Sununu, the senator
from New Hampshire, was in. I disagreed with John quite often politically,
but at least I could talk to him about scientific and technology issues
because he was a graduate of MIT. He’d studied calculus. We could
even talk about good and bad calculus books, and I can assure you that
is not a normal conversation that you can have with representatives
on the Hill. The Hill is illiterate when it comes to science and technology,
and that’s not good for the country. I think it puts a lot of
pressure on NASA to try and explain what it does, because the average
person on the Hill has an inadequate science and technology education,
Did you believe, when you were testifying or offering information based
on your results of the decadal survey, that you could possibly educate
them to move forward?
Well, we had a window there. That was actually a very interesting time
because the NASA Administrator—these are just my views. Mike [Michael
D.] Griffin is a highly intelligent man who said some absolutely stupid
things. I thought that was always interesting, how such a highly intelligent
person could say such dumb things. We got ourselves involved in a little
bit of a debate about the decadal survey where he said, “Well,
you’ve just asked for a bunch of money,” and said we had
come up with this decline in terms of Earth Science funding at NASA,
and we’d created this envelope of what we would want to do if
we got back.
Well, we simply observed the fact that we’d lost almost 30 percent
funding in terms of real dollars between 2000 and 2007. I think that
was just a period at which NASA’s Earth Science Program was not
being particularly well led and it was not putting forth a persuasive
argument. And you had very good scientists in astrophysics and elsewhere,
like Ed [Edward J.] Weiler, who can sell ice to an Eskimo. So you had
very strong proponents for space science and not good proponents for
Earth Science, and that led to this decline. Yet it was accompanied
at the same time with an aging Earth-observing fleet, which we had not
been able to replace because NASA had stepped away from the subsequent
EOS missions, and we lost our way.
So when we did the decadal [survey] and we’ve put a persuasive
case back onto the table, in some ways I think the Administrator’s
response to that—which was negative, saying that we couldn’t
afford this, we couldn’t afford that, we couldn’t do these
things because he wanted to go off to the Moon—gave us a real
debating arena in which we could put the ideas out there. The Washington
Post and The New York Times and so forth covered it because we had a
disagreement, and it was a fairly high-level disagreement.
My colleague, Rick [Richard A.] Anthes, and I were not about to step
away from that disagreement because we really believed we had the numbers
and we had the logic. If you added to that these large-scale environmental
issues that were not going to go away and that were going to require
more and more understanding of the planet, and you had these other changes
that were happening around the planet, and we had a declining set of
observations—we were not on a good path.
I think the Hill got it, and I think they got it because we had some
very good staffers on both sides, Republican and Democratic. I think
we made a lot of real progress. Unfortunately, I think with recent events
we’ve taken a real step backwards, but this will pass. I think
really what happened is that with the frightening events in the economy,
the body politic really was frightened, and when people are frightened
they become very inward-looking. I think they cease to look clearly
at things because they’re just so scared, and it makes them reactionary,
it makes them illogical. They have reached a point in their lives where
they’re just scared.
And even when—it’s really quite interesting to me, politically—the
government felt, at all levels of the government, that we had to essentially
pump-prime the economy to keep out of a core meltdown, and now people
are not very confident that the president [Barack H. Obama] did the
right thing, as if he were responsible somehow for the original core
meltdown. It’s all so illogical, because you say, “Wait
a second, he didn’t tee that ball up. He got clobbered with it.”
Remember, they even wanted to suspend the campaign for a while because
the economy was in such a freefall. [John S.] McCain [III] wanted to
do that. It’s as if we forget these things. If you put the climate
question back in there people say, “I’ve got enough problems
with the economy. Don’t tell me about the climate.” They’re
just, “I don’t want to hear about it.”
Can you share some examples of how not paying attention to future climate
issues basically does affect our demise?
Yes. I think that, to me, one of the grand challenges at the heart of
the science is when we recognize that a lot of our predictive infrastructure
has an aspect of stationarity to it. For instance, in the weather forecasting
business we continue to refine the models, but we don’t go in
and say, “Well, yes, but the whole basic initial conditions have
changed.” In most areas, we’re still treating the planet
as if it has not been altered in some fundamental way. You hear people
say, “If you don’t understand the past, you’re going
to have to repeat the mistakes.” Someone said if you want to predict
tomorrow’s weather, just say it’s going to be like today,
and better than half the time you’ll be right because there is
some kind of historical precedent for what happens tomorrow. We all
I liken that to the fact that if the road is fairly straight ahead,
I can get by by driving by looking in the rearview mirror, but if I
were to try to drive through the Rocky Mountains that way, that would
not last very long. So having some prognostic capability, some ability
to look out into the future, and understanding how robust those results
are, is extremely important as things begin to change.
It’s a totally different area of science, has no connection with
the climate problem, but imagine where we would be today in Japan [after
the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami] if we had the capability of
more successfully forecasting or predicting earthquake events. Just
imagine if there had been the ability to say, “In the next week
we are going to have a significant major earthquake,” how much
better Japan could have been prepared. The loss of life could have been
minimal as opposed to something like 20,000 people. You could have had
reactors powered down, you could have had people out of the coastal
zone, and right there you would have saved a lot of people. But this
came without warning. The tsunami happened so fast, the tsunami came
ashore over 500 miles an hour. They just didn’t have a chance
because there was no predictive capability.
The climate issue, that’s a very different thing. It’s not
the same kind of discontinuity, not the same kind of massive event,
but we need some understanding. What are going to be the implications
of the climate and other issues of an Arctic Ocean that is close to
ice-free in the summertime? What are the strategic implications to that:
does the United States Navy need to park an aircraft carrier up there?
What are going to be the commercial issues: are we going to start shipping
fuel through the Arctic Ocean in the summertime? Does the [U.S.] Coast
Guard need to be up there? So all of these big questions, we can’t
even talk about them because everyone gets all irrational about the
climate question. It’s as if you mention the word and then people
will say, “Well, you can’t talk about that.” In fact,
we’ve seen people saying, “You can’t do climate missions.”
Then the Administrator [Charles F. Bolden, Jr.], regrettably I think,
says, “Oh, NASA doesn’t do climate missions. It does Earth
Science missions.” Well, yes, Charlie, but you’re really
splitting hairs. You ought not to say that. The CLARREO [Climate Absolute
Radiance and Refractivity Observatory] mission, which has now been cancelled,
is a climate mission. You’re not going to look at Earth’s
radiation budget for any other real reason than to get a fundamental
measurement about climate. In fact, that’s what we said in the
So the fact that politically people have become so confused on the topic
is really quite regrettable, and it bothers me, too, because I think
that the beginnings of this problem—quite frankly, in my personal
opinion—are traceable to Al [Albert A.] Gore [Jr.]. I believe
the vice president, when he became vice president, was so committed
to this topic that he, unfortunately, politicized it, because it wasn’t
originally a political issue. The act that brought the USGCRP, the U.S.
Global Change Research Program, into existence was crafted under the
[Ronald W.] Reagan presidency and was signed into law by the first [George
H.W.] Bush president.
Throughout that whole period the EOS Program was a Reagan-Bush space
program. So I think that somehow the vice president almost loved it
to death. Somehow it became more political than it was, such that when
the second [George W.] Bush presidency came in, then he took the other
side. If the Democratic view is climate change was a real issue, well,
then the Republican view was going to be it’s not a real issue.
It had become polarized. And now we’re just living in the aftermath
of this polarization, and it has an impact because these are fundamental
scientific issues and we need to be after them. Yet now we’re
going to get into a situation where people say, “No, you’re
not going to go do that, because that’s a climate mission.”
No, it’s a science mission. It’s as if the science aspect
of this has gotten lost.
What are the real risks, not just to Americans but to the globe, if
the current satellite system is allowed to go dark and a replacement
is not made in a timely fashion to continue the data that you have collected?
I think the risks are many. One is the fact that the scientific enterprise
of taking observations and testing hypotheses, making more observations,
restructuring the hypotheses—that whole activity is not well understood
by the body politic. They think that if you alter the hypothesis that
somehow you’re “cooking the books,” as opposed to
that’s the way you should do science. The reason you take observations,
almost the main reason you take them, is to refute the hypothesis, to
find out what’s wrong about the way you think about it so that
you can make progress.
So you have a situation where people don’t understand the scientific
approach. Science, and then a topic within that, climate, has become
a belief or a political issue, not unlike evolution or other political
scientific issues. Observational strategies that are supposed to help
clarify this issue become handicapped. Then we begin to actually lose
the connection between the whole role of observations, for instance,
weather forecasting. Somebody said, “What do we need weather satellites
for? I get my weather from the Weather Channel.” Yes that’s
a joke, but it was said and I think it is there in many ways that, well,
maybe they’re not really needed.
In fact, here we are today in 2011 trying to get a budget for [FY (fiscal
year)] 2011 and 2012, which is going to be even more difficult. If you
look at some of the elements of that budget, some of elements are to
replace the low-Earth-orbiting weather satellites or the geostationary
satellites. These are satellite systems that go back for fifty years.
We have been in this business for a long time, and we had a certain
characteristic in that business over a very long time, which was you
did not want to ever be blind. Therefore we went to great efforts to
have the ability to launch on failure, to bring up something they would
call hot spare, if we did have a launch failure. I think it was the
NOAA 13 that failed in low-Earth orbit in the POES system, the Polar
Orbiting Environmental Satellites.
There was this fear of having a gap in the observational base, because
that’s what we use to make weather forecasts. Well, we’re
perfectly willing right now to proceed ahead where we’re almost
going to assure a two-year gap, because the funding is not getting in
place for the JPSS [Joint Polar Satellite System] Program. Here’s
something that just five or six years ago would have been unthinkable,
and now people are just, “Well, who needs weather forecasts?”
It is so strange that you really feel that somehow I’m in a bad
dream and I’m going to wake up and then everything will be back
to at least some form of rationality here. But no, we have to balance
the budget, we have to do this, and weather satellites, well, who needs
those? Well, I can assure you here in Oklahoma you don’t want
to go into tornado season without having both low-Earth-orbiting geostationary
satellites, because people are going to get killed. And our friends
to the South, same thing down in Texas. Weather is no stranger out here,
it’s no stranger in New England. We need to sober up here and
start acting like adults again and stop this naiveté. Yes, we’ve
got real budget issues, but those budget issues are made up of many,
Is it a strength or a weakness in the overall system to have a number
of agencies allegedly doing the same thing? I believe that’s a
perception by those that you have already categorized.
I’ve thought about that. Could you take a research technology
agency like NASA and have it take over the operational weather aspect
of NOAA? Maybe this is just my narrow thinking, but I tend to think
you’re better off keeping those slightly separated, even in two
different organizations. The reason for that is that I think that the
day-to-day operational demands almost always will cut into the research
base, and that when that happens it’s regrettable. But, it would
be very unfortunate if that research base leapt over to the research
agency. For instance, if NOAA’s eating into its research base
then led to knocking down NASA’s research base, then it could
really be bad. That’s why I’ve felt like a strength of the
U.S. research scientific program is that it has a certain degree of
diversity. You’ve got Department of Energy labs, you’ve
got NOAA labs, you’ve got the NSF, you’ve got NASA. You’ve
got things spread around, and there’s a cost to it, but I think
the cost is more than offset by the benefit of robustness. It just gives
you more diversity, and I think that that diversity has many strengths,
and this is one of them.
In May of last year, you came to Norman to be a part of this great facility
that’s here. What were your goals when you came here?
Well, I was very comfortable working Climate Central. I did have some
things change that were not as I expected when I went into the effort
at Climate Central in Princeton. I had been assured by many people that
I would not need to worry about fundraising. I should have gotten that
in writing, because after the first, oh, six months, nine months, I
had to worry a lot about fundraising. In fact, that became the job.
I also felt that maybe this wasn’t my strong suit, the whole political
communication and so forth, that maybe they needed people who knew more
about how to communicate than I did. So I began to think of other things.
Charlie Bolden and Lori [B.] Garver talked to me about coming down to
be the chief scientist at NASA, and that discussion was taking place
in the March-April timeframe. At the same time, the University of Oklahoma
had contacted me. If I think back, as we entered into the early April
timeframe of 2010, I had pretty well settled on the fact that I was
going to leave Climate Central and probably come down to NASA Headquarters.
I like the people, some people I’ve known a long time. Chris [Christopher
J.] Scolese [NASA Associate Administrator], I know him very well. Ed
[Edward J.] Weiler [Associate Administrator for the Science Mission
Directorate], I’ve known a long time. Lori Garver, less long,
Charlie Bolden, I’m a big admirer of his. I disagree with him
about his statements on we don’t do climate missions, but I understand
why he thought he had to say it.
I was kind of headed in that direction, but Oklahoma kept pressing me
so I agreed to come out here with my wife in mid April, and we spent
two or three days here. In talking with the president, learning of his
vision, seeing what a change he had made in the place, caused me to
think back about my experiences at New Hampshire. One thing that I think
that our university struggled with at New Hampshire is we had too many
turnovers at the top. The most successful presidency was Joan [R.] Leitzel,
in that she gave a real body of time, and she was a wonderful person.
I think a wonderful person plus a long body of time allowed her to be
very successful. We had many times when the president would be there
three or four years, and changing presidents every three or four years
gets to be pretty chaotic.
David [L.] Boren, the president here, has been here sixteen years. He
comes from great experience politically, senator of the United States,
governor of the state, family from the political world who knows the
state extremely well and had a grand vision. They have essentially moved
this university from a mid-tiered state university in the Midwest to
now one of a true international rank. More National Merit Scholars are
here than any other public institution, fifth in the country in National
Merit Scholars, one of the top producers of Rhodes Scholars, second
largest ballet school in America, huge program in the arts. In seeing
that expanse, particularly in the arts, and in walking around the campus
and seeing the students and seeing the nature of the place, I realized
that I’d be better off at a university than I would be at NASA.
Coming out here, one thing I want to do is the physician’s oath,
I want to do no harm. I certainly want to not break anything. It’s
a huge, powerful School of Meteorology, but I do think that there’s
a real role for Oklahoma to build out from that very strong meteorological
tradition into regional climate studies. That that’s where the
grand problems are, to really be able to begin to develop an understanding
of how climate might evolve at regional scales so that it becomes at
scales where people can act.
That, I think, is a very important topic, particularly if we can begin
to get an understanding at regional scales of what water will do. Understanding
how precipitation might change in this area of the country is really
important. You could imagine, say, in Texas or any of these areas—to
understand how the hydrologic cycle might change, understanding how
extreme events might change, understanding, for instance, heat waves
or ice storms, what’s the pattern going to be. Could there be
changes in the distribution of tornadoes in the country, is that going
to shift? These are all big questions, and the physics is very, very
complicated in all the connections. So this is an area I want to see
if we can’t begin to make a contribution.
I think of the Bretherton Diagram, and on the right-hand side is the
human activity impact, and to me that’s where you are in a sense.
You have moved through the entire diagram and now you’ve touched
all the parts.
This is a really, really important area that we see now ever more, the
beginning of the real inclusion of the human into the system, as opposed
to just treating it as some kind of external forcing term. Because there’s
going to be a relation, there’s going to be connections. A human
uses energy, and, in part, the use of energy is to exploit how the human
lives in the environment. Well, if the environment begins to change,
then the human will begin to probably change energy consumption patterns,
which will change the environment again. These are not separate objects
anymore. And I think the more we understand of that, then we’re
going to get at the hard aspects of the problem.
When we talk about things we know for sure—for instance, the increase
of CO2 in the atmosphere is due to fossil-fuel burning, we know that
for sure. We also know for sure that the burning of fossil fuels is
right at the core of all economic systems on the planet. There may be
some very few tribal places where they don’t use fossil fuels,
but they’re very few today in the twenty-first century. And this
is not a good thing or a bad thing, it’s not an evil thing. It’s
just reality. When we were children in high school and grammar school,
we learned about the Industrial Revolution. Humans replaced animal and
human labor with the burning of coal and machines, and that leads us
to the fact that today the consumption of fossil energy is deeply interwoven
in all human society. So the idea that somehow you’re going to
change that easily or quickly is as naïve or as incorrect as saying
humans don’t have anything to do with CO2 going up in the atmosphere.
These are all interconnected things and they are reality.
I do think that on the green side, some people have been a little—not
a little, way too optimistic about how easy this might be to fix. “Oh,
we’ll build a few windmills and we’ll have some solar arrays,
and we’ll go on living happily ever after.” Well, no. Right
now, wind energy contributes about 2 percent of electric energy on the
planet, and there’s a lot of wind-generating stations. Look at
Oklahoma and Texas. Electric power consumption is increasing at about
2 percent per year. So if we want to keep the problem from not growing,
and suppose we have wind, that would mean I would need to double. You
would need to rebuild the total current capacity of wind energy on the
planet today next year, because you’re going to grow 2 percent
and we right now contribute about 2 percent. That means if you didn’t
want to have the fossil-fuel terms grow or the nuclear terms grow, and
forget about solar right now, you’d have to double your wind capacity
every year just to stay even. That’s not going to happen, so we
really have a huge problem.
And now we’ve decided to be noisy about it, so this is the worst
of all things to do. You’ve got a huge problem across clear thinking.
It’s like driving in very hazardous conditions. Those are the
last times you want to talk on your cell phone. Like in New Hampshire,
if it’s snowing out and it’s a dark night and the wind is
blowing like crazy and the roads haven’t been plowed and you’re
driving, you’d better pay attention. Same thing today. All those
things are happening. We ought to be paying attention and not throwing
noise into the system. And we’re doing the complete opposite,
so it’s just really crazy.
What decisions or events need to happen, do you think, to shape the
next twenty years?
Well, I think several things. I think, first of all, we’ll come
back to rationality because the evidence is just so overwhelming, and
it’s just going to become more and more overwhelming. I think
there will be a surprise or two. I think that the most likely aspect
for surprises are in the Arctic and probably in the ice part, if we
had some massive ice loss from Greenland.
Already to me it’s just staggering, if you look at the ice loss
in the summertime from the Arctic Ocean—and this is something
that we have a very good record, because you have a historic record
with the Defense Meteorological Satellite [Program], DMSPs. You’ve
got a passive microwave instrument on there since the late seventies
all the way up to the present. You’ve got a big passive microwave
on Aqua, and we’re able every day to get maps of the Arctic Ocean,
and the passive microwaves allow us to separate frozen from open ocean,
and we don’t need to worry about clouds. So we have a fundamental
satellite record that is extremely robust.
Claire [L.] Parkinson at Goddard [Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland]
has just done monumental work in this area, and we know for a fact that
we’ve had a very large ice loss over the last thirty years. We
also know for a fact that not a single one of the climate models even
remotely predicted this. So here you have a big change in the climate
system, in the Earth system, summertime Arctic Sea ice, a very big change
that no model got right. Well, that ought to give you some pause. And,
in fact, in this case many times we hear from Congress, “Oh, well,
you can’t trust these models. They might not get it right.”
You’re right, we didn’t get this right. But guess what?
It’s worse. The reality is worse than what the model said. In
fact, you could take all of the models that participated in the last
IPCC, look at what’s called standard deviation around the whole
cluster of models, that still doesn’t describe it. You got to
go out two standard deviations. In other words, they didn’t even
get close to predicting the rapidity of the ice loss that our satellites
are telling us is occurring. That shows you that models can be wrong
by underestimating the changes that we’re seeing.
I look at that and I say anyone who thinks about the precautionary principle
or anyone who says, hey, does that get your attention? We’re underestimating.
We’re underestimating what the changes are. The models are not
showing you how much the change is. As opposed to overestimating the
change, now they’re underestimating it. And yet we’re still
fighting over, on the defense side, whether or not to even put a passive
microwave on the follow-ons to the DMSP. This is lunacy, like being
on a dark road and it’s snowing like crazy out and the wind is
blowing and there’s ice everything, “Why don’t we
just turn the headlights off?” You know, it’s just nuts.
It’s just nuts.
You’ve been in this field since its beginning. What do you believe
to be some of the greatest accomplishments that have come through?
I think the really big accomplishment was the idea that we ought to
look at the Earth as a system, that we really began to accept the fact
that the simple ideas we have about cause and effect really don’t
make any sense when you have a system. What is cause and effect, what
is effect and cause? These things are so interwoven, and we really began
to seriously grapple with that. We recognize that not just superficially
but the absolute connectivity of the Earth’s system, and that
we then began to actually successfully create Earth system models. That
really has led to foundation for our beginning of the understanding
of not just the climate problem, but how the Earth works. I think that
is a monumental achievement.
The regrettable thing is that we still are not where we should be in
terms of paralleling that modeling, understanding piece with a robust
observational system, and I worry about that because you need to challenge
these models with what the reality is to make progress. That’s
why some of the missions that we recommended in the decadal I thought
were going to be so pivotal—for instance the CLARREO mission which
has now gotten parked.
I can’t completely be critical of NASA for parking it. All of
these missions have run the price right through the roof, and we’ve
lost the ability to do things efficiently. We feel like that you need
eight people watching every one person who’s about to turn a screw,
as if that somehow adds for turning the screw more correctly. You’ve
got all this wasted time, but that’s another topic.
I think that if you looked at something like the CLARREO mission, what
it had as its core was to use our ability, which we’ve already
done with several instruments, to observe what the Sun is radiating
out so we know what kind of the energy [is going] into the Earth system.
Then if you could measure the reflected energy, the so-called short
wave—some of the Sun’s energy bounces off the top of the
atmosphere, some of it gets into the atmosphere and comes right back
out as short wave. As solar energy in, it bounces off clouds, bounces
off of ice. We measure how much short wave energy comes out. Then we
measure the thermal, the heat that comes out, and that’s the part
that the greenhouse gases interrupt. We do that carefully over a long
period of time, then we essentially have the basic bookkeeping of energy
into the system, energy out in the short wave and energy out in the
Then we would say to the climate models, “You’ve got to
get this part right. If you don’t get this part right, don’t
talk to us about climate because if you can’t get this, we don’t
trust you.” So in this case what you’d really be doing is
you would have a litmus test and say, “This is fundamental. You
don’t get this right, you don’t get to play. If you get
this right, then we’ll begin to listen to you.” Then we
start moving down into the models and seeing other aspects of where
the other litmus tests that we might have, and then you make fundamental
scientific progress. Well, we’re not going to do that now. We
parked that mission. Partly because it ran up in price and partly because
it had the “C” word attached to it—and the budget.
Yet we’re going to have to get back to these things. The problem
is not going anywhere, not going anywhere. And it’s just going
to get worse.
One of the areas that NASA’s looking at in this latest strategy
is to branch out with more commercial partners. Do you see the area
of Earth System Science branching out with commercial partners?
Well, I don’t know. I do know this; we’ve got to find a
different way. Because I think that we’ve gotten into a situation
where we’ve had some failures, and our response to failures I
don’t necessarily think is logical. That’s why I think Dan
Goldin had a certain correctness in terms of trying to get cheaper and
quicker. I think when he put “better,” that was probably
where he went astray. We’ve got to find a more effective way of
doing business, and I think this is where I’m in agreement with
him, partially. People say we’ve got to get more effective with
our tax dollar expenditures. Whether it’s the fact that the three
big science centers at Goddard, Langley [Research Center, Hampton, Virginia]
and JPL have become too inbred or the preservation of the Center becomes
more important than the doing in science, I don’t know. But we’re
clearly in not a sweet space right now.
In some ways, NASA itself—I think big organizations are hard to
change. We built up a huge amount of infrastructure, all these Centers,
to essentially go to the Moon. And it’s been clear to me that
ever since then we’ve been trying to figure out—we’ve
been there and done that, now what do we do with this big machine called
NASA? Well, we build the [International] Space Station. Well, why? We’re
never very clear about that. We’ve had different reasons and so
forth. I have a lot of friends who’ve been astronauts and have
been there, and they found it great, exciting, and I’m delighted
for them, but I’m still not clear what it is that this thing is
really going to do. Then we want to go back to the Moon [2004 Vision
for Space Exploration]. Well, I knew right away that wasn’t going
to work because the body politic doesn’t want to go back to the
Moon. It doesn’t know what it wants to do, but it knows it doesn’t
want to go back to the Moon because we’ve been there, done that,
and it was gray and dusty.
That was one reason why in the decadal [survey] we used the word “venture”
for the small missions, because we started to think that what would
a Bill [William H.] Gates [III, founder of Microsoft] do when he was
young, or Steven [P.] Jobs [founder of Apple, Inc.]? What would they
do if they had $150 million? How could we be more venturesome?
I still think that that is something that the agency needs to come to
grips with, how do we actually change the way we’re doing business?
I, for instance, wanted to suggest to NASA one time that they ought
to have one day a week where you’re not allowed to send e-mail
or develop PowerPoints, that PowerPoints should be forbidden. Maybe
you’re only allowed to do PowerPoints one morning every week,
and other than that, you can’t do them, because we somehow lose
focus. The tools become the end, and we’re not being venturesome,
we’re not thinking how to do things more creatively.
When we did Earth System Science we were really thinking far more out
of the box than today. I think we ought to be more risk-tolerant. I
know that this is a very hard thing because people get blamed if it
doesn’t work, but we ought to somehow get our minds into a situation
that if it fails, well, okay, do it again. Fix it. Right now the way
you ensure failure is you engineer to death and don’t do anything.
CLARREO is the worst of all things. It’s just parked and the Destiny
mission is parked. We have to find a different way.
It’s interesting to me, too, because you take the two failures
we’ve had with orbital [satellites], and in both cases it’s
almost the same failure. We lose the OCO [Orbiting Carbon Observatory]
mission, and then a year later or so we lose the Glory [Earth-observing
satellite] mission. It’s almost the same [launch] failure. You
say, “Well, wait a second.” Then that ought to say something
about all of this having watchers watch watchers watch watchers. Maybe
what you should have done is put three smart people in the room and
say, “Let’s get to the bottom of this.”
You remember in the first [Space Shuttle] Challenger [STS 5l-L] accident,
where they really went right to the heart of the problem and brought
out what failed? It was just thinking clearly, it wasn’t taking
massive amounts of data. These O-rings, what do they do when it gets
cold? Well, they become brittle and break. We need to find a different
way of doing business, and the Earth Sciences particularly. With the
private sector, well, the private sector has some of the same burdens.
We’ve got to find a way to be more creative.
I know I could visit with you for the rest of the afternoon, but we’re
not going to do that so I wanted to ask you two questions. One was if
you can think of some other areas that we have not had a chance to discuss
that you would like to, and then before we stop I’d like to ask
you about your thoughts about your Nobel Peace Prize.
There is something that I felt that should be recorded, and that was
what happened when we lost the follow-ons to EOS and how did all that
occur. Because I was there and I watched it and I couldn’t seem
to effect a change. It’s one of the few times in my life where
I could see what I felt would be the end result. It’s really quite
interesting because you have a convergence of forces that led to bad
Dan Goldin, it was clear, believed that NASA was an R&D [research
and development] engine and that you fueled that R&D by having missions
do different things. That’s understandable. I can certainly understand
that, because that really is a lot of NASA. That really is at its heart.
So when you have this need—to understand the Earth requires a
long time series, he looked at that and saw a threat to the R&D
engine, and these were very real different dynamics.
For instance, [Charles] David Keeling, in 1957 as part of IGY [International
Geophysical Year, 1957-1958], starts measuring CO2 at Mauna Loa in Hawaii
every single day. I remember talking to David, he wasn’t going
to let that instrument change. He wasn’t going to change anything.
It was going to be a hell of a price to pay to swap out putting some
new detector. “No, I’m going to make this measurement. I’m
going to know exactly what I’m doing, and I’m going to make
it every single day.” Even though the Department of Energy after
about ten years said, “Oh, we see it’s going up. We don’t
need to do this anymore,” Keeling’s persistence said, “No,
this measurement’s too important.” It’s now called
the Keeling Record. It’s a hallmark of what it takes to do climate-relevant
measurement. The same with Claire Parkinsons’s work using microwave
to look at sea ice.
You can cite these things over and over again, but Dan wanted out from
under the EOS repetition. I thought maybe Dan would redesign the instruments
and make them better. Well, that wasn’t going to be big enough
change for him. He just said, “No, we’re going to do something
else.” So here’s Dan Goldin wanting out from under EOS,
the out-year missions. Jim Baker now is head of NOAA, and Jim knows
the climate question is a huge question, and he wants to position NOAA
into becoming the climate agency. I think Jim recognized that that would
cost some money, and I think he felt the [William J.] Clinton administration—and
we talked about Al Gore was very, very involved in this climate thing—that
if he could get into the climate side of the equation, money would flow.
Then this opportunity came along which was called convergence. The military’s
DMSP program, the low-Earth-orbiting military satellites—there
were two, one in the early morning and one in the early afternoon. Then
NOAA had one in the mid morning and one in the early afternoon. So the
idea became, well, we’ve got four satellites and only three orbits.
We get rid of one, we could eliminate the extra one. The original idea
of convergence, which led to a presidential decision directive, was
to get rid of the duplication of an extra satellite. In fact, if you
read the presidential decision directive, the word “climate”
doesn’t even appear. It is to make the NOAA-Air Force Weather
Observing Satellite Program less redundant, more efficient, save some
money, and then go to common ground processing and common instruments
and so forth. Very simple idea.
Jim Baker, I think, saw the opportunity to say, “Well, what we’re
going to do in this convergence is a whole new program, and it’s
going to take over the NASA climate mandate,” which Dan Goldin
was willing to toss over because he wanted to go do other things. Now
you’ve got yourself set up for a potential problem, because here
come these climate requirements from NASA with nobody over to NOAA and
the Air Force, mainly at Jim Baker’s insistence. And the Air Force
is not paying too much attention because when I last checked—in
fact, it’s proven out today—the Air Force didn’t have
any climate requirements.
NOAA takes the climate requirements on board and brings the Air Force
along with it. Of course, the Air Force has got all the money, NOAA
has very little money, and then the program gets into trouble. Now what
begins to happen is the Air Force says, “Climate? I’m not
interested in climate. I’m in the weather forecasting business.”
So the climate starts peeling off. It was just amazing to me to look
at how NASA got out of the business, passed it over to NOAA, NOAA embraces
them, the Air Force doesn’t pay attention, doesn’t know
whether it should embrace them or not. The vice president is interested
so they decide not to push back, and this thing then goes off the tracks
in cost overruns and they cut back. I thought, this was doomed for failure.
Now we’ve had to divorce, so the Air Force is over here doing
their thing, NOAA’s over here doing its thing. Thank goodness
the Europeans are going to fly something in the mid morning because
now we’re down to two satellites, one NOAA is going to do in the
afternoon and one the Air Force is going to do in the early morning.
We’ve gone from a four-satellite system down to a two-satellite
system with the Europeans handling the mid morning; both programs grossly
over budget, way late. And now in the CR [continuing resolution] situation
[FY 2011 budget crisis] probably we’re going to have gaps in our
coverage. It is just a disaster, and highly thoughtful people somehow
didn’t see this thing coming. I remember sitting in the meeting
watching Baker take on this responsibility and Goldin give it up, and
no resources to do it. Crazy, crazy.
We kept this in the decadal. The decadal survey, I fear, has a little
bit of the way people read mystery novels. They speed-read through up
to the last ten pages and they read that. So the decadal, they just
look at the recommended missions, speed-read through everything and
say, “Well, what missions did you recommend?” We really
tried to describe this particular problem in POES and the disaster and
so forth, because I think there are real lessons to be learned here,
that these are major programmatic things and we just don’t think
clearly about them.
I just think we really need somehow to come to grips with what it is
we need NASA to do and have a very clear discussion about that. I don’t
think it’s to become a NOAA for Earth because of what we talked
about earlier; I think operations and research need that separation.
But we clearly haven’t figured out what it is that NASA should
be doing and how to afford it.
When we first were talking, we talked about all the scientists and the
interaction with NASA to help build that direction, and of course now
with the budget issues—who do you think needs to make that direction?
I think that we have collectively given up some things and we didn’t
truly realize what we were giving up. I think that there was a period
where the advisory infrastructure of NASA became weaker because people
were saying, “I know what to do.” Mike Griffin, I think,
said that particularly, “Got enough advice.”
But the advisory structure really is a two-way street. It’s a
way in which a group of people become deeply engaged with what NASA’s
trying to do, and can, as non-federal employees, sit down on the Hill
and deeply engage the Hill in what is trying to be done. And in that
dialogue you can begin to find areas of convergence or areas that we
can figure out ways of doing better. Somehow we’ve lost some of
that connectivity between the scientific community, Congress, and NASA,
and now there’s a lot of talking past one another. I would think
that we’ve got to find some pathway back in to build that community
back into the system.
I think historically I can look back and see where the Earth Science
Program became an example of when that dialogue really fundamentally
broke down, and therefore there ceased to be a vision. In other words,
it was after EOS, then what? When that went away, there was no then
what. It wasn’t clear where anyone was going, and if you’re
not clear on where you’re going, then I can assure you you’re
not going to get any money. I think we’re in that same situation
right now. Not clear what the Manned Space Program should be, it’s
not clear what the Earth Science Program—because it’s gotten
all involved in politics. The astrophysicists have got a dinosaur on
their back with the James Webb [Space Telescope]. Here, in some ways,
good old heliospheric’s chugging away, and it’s the old
NASA P.I. missions.
And I don’t fault anyone. It’s just like we talked about
earlier, about the big breakthroughs. Really at the heart was to recognize
the Earth was a system, and the simple linearity of cause and effect
is way too narrow a model. NASA is a system, and the simple linearity
of, well, this decision led to this, led to this, led to this—no,
it’s more complicated than that. We need to get back to that dialogue,
because I think we could have a dialogue that was more systematic.
Do you want to share a few minutes about the Nobel Peace Prize [awarded
in 2007 to the IPCC and Al Gore] and the impact that it had?
Well, clearly we didn’t get the Nobel Peace Prize, but we were
significant participants in the organization that was honored. I think
that it was, on the whole, really a very strong statement, and at least
for a period of time the strength of that statement held. I don’t
have a good way of saying this, but I do fault Gore as the vice president
of politicizing the program, and I worry that his actions subsequent
to the Nobel did nothing to de-politicize it. He could say, and with
some justification, the film [An] Inconvenient Truth [documentary] were
statements, by and large, of factual material put into a more popular
medium. But even there, he stretched the truth in some areas. That’s
a perfectly normal thing for a politician to do, and I have no problem
with exaggeration—I mean if I’m telling a joke, quite often
I’ll exaggerate—but if I’m speaking about a scientific
topic, then my DNA [deoxyribonucleic acid (hereditary material)] says,
“You’re not telling a joke. There is no exaggeration here.
Precision of your language is very important.”
The vice president doesn’t have that same DNA because he’s
not a scientist. In fact, he’s a journalist in terms of his academic
training, and he’s a politician, and the rules are different and
the DNA is different. But he often tried to present it as if he were
a scientist, and that’s where I think he overstepped. With his
receipt of the Nobel it would have been better, but maybe it’s
an impossibility, if he had then set about de-politicizing this problem.
I think that’s probably asking the impossible, to ask a politician
to de-politicize something, but I do think that then led to a further
polarization. So there is some downside to that Nobel.
That’s why it was so important in the early days with Reagan,
that he embraced the topic. I am told by people who, I think, know—in
particular Bob [Robert T.] Watson who used to be with NASA Headquarters
and knew the UK political establishment very well—that Margaret
[H.] Thatcher [former UK Prime Minister], when asked by Reagan about
the climate question, her response was, “Ronnie, take it from
me. It’s a real problem.” And for Reagan, that was all he
needed to hear. She didn’t say it’s a real political problem,
it’s just a real problem. It’s reality. Probably walked
him through the elementary part of it, and that’s all he needed,
and therefore we have to take this on.
It’s true that Reagan wasn’t about to turn off fossil fuels,
but nobody else is either, from what we talked about earlier. It’s
just too big a problem. But you sure need to understand it as a scientific
issue. Yes, it touches upon society and political things, but it is
a fundamental big scientific problem, and it would have been fine if
we’d have gotten back to that. I don’t see the pathway back
to it now, but we will have to find it.
And we look forward to seeing the work that you’ll be accomplishing
from here, and hopefully all of those paths will meet together.
I’m learning about Oklahoma, and it’s a grand place, and
the university here is committed to making a difference on many topics,
including the climate topic. I think a lot of other universities are
recognizing the grand problems are the ones that we need to go after,
be they in health or social issues or scientific issues, and we’re
going to try and make progress on it.
Thank you for your time afternoon.
Thanks very much. It was great, glad you could come up.
to JSC Oral History Website