Why Worry?

Why Worry?
Reported by
Sheri Fink

Posted March 13, 2010

Presented By

Atmospheric Sciences and Geology Section


From the cover stories of popular science magazines to the content of popular Hollywood movies, the possibility of abrupt, catastrophic climate change has stirred the public imagination. But how real is the threat? At NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Gavin A. Schmidt and Ronald L. Miller are attempting to answer that question by creating climate models, testing them against evidence from historical climate records, and then using the models in an effort to predict the climate of the future. Topics discussed included Greenland's ice core, the ocean's overturning circulation, and the effects of greenhouse gases on the climate.

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Web Sites

Climate Impact of Quadrupling CO2
An overview of model results from NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The organization established by the WHO and UNEP to assess global climate change, its impacts, and options for adaptation and mitigation. Its Web site includes full text of the 2001 Third Assessment Report.

A climate blog. The site promises that "discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications."

Journal Articles:

Hansen, J., & M. Sato. 2004. Greenhouse gas growth rates. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA) 101: 16109-16114. FULL TEXT

Schmidt, G. A., D. T. Shindell, R .L. Miller et al. 2004. General circulation modelling of Holocene climate variability. Quaternary Sci. Rev. 23: 2167-2181.

Rind, D., P. Demenocal, G. L. et al. 2001. Effects of glacial meltwater in the GISS coupled atmosphere-ocean model I: North Atlantic deep water response. J. Geophys. Res. 106: 27335-27354.

Rind, D., G. L. Russell, G. A. et al. 2001. Effects of glacial meltwater in the GISS coupled atmosphere-ocean model II: A bi-polar seesaw in Atlantic deep water production. J. Geophys. Res. 106: 27355-27366.


Gavin A. Schmidt, PhD

NASA Goddard Institute for Space Sciences /
Columbia University
email | web site | publications

Gavin Schmidt is a research scientist with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University. He develops large-scale atmospheric and ocean circulation models to study the variability of past, present, and possible future climates. Based on these models, present-day and past climate can be compared using data stored in various proxies, such as tree rings, deep-sea cores, ice cores, and skeletal coral remains. Schmidt also studies climatic variability as affected by a number of external forcings, specifically solar radiation and multiple aspects of atmospheric composition.

Schmidt received his PhD in Applied Mathematics from University College London in 1994. He served as a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University until 1996, after which he was awarded a NOAA Climate and Global Change Fellowship. Over the past few years, Schmidt has been actively involved in public outreach through the New York Academy of Sciences and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and most recently, at the College de France in Paris.

Ronald L. Miller, PhD

NASA Goddard Institute for Space Sciences /
Columbia University
email | publications

Ron Miller has been at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Sciences since 1990, and serves on the faculty of Columbia University’s department of applied physics and applied mathematics. His research interests include the mechanisms of climate change and the effect of soil aerosol particles on present and past climates.

Miller received his PhD from MIT in 1990. During his time at GISS, he has worked with students at The Bronx High School of Science’s Institute on Climate and Planets, an institute devoted to the study of ocean-atmosphere interaction.

Sheri Fink

Sheri Fink is the author of War Hospital: A True Story of Surgery and Survival (PublicAffairs, 2003). Fink obtained her MD and PhD in neurosciences at Stanford University and now, based in New York, writes about medicine, public health, and science for a range of publications.