Currently serving as deputy director, Schmidt takes over from long-time director James E. Hansen, who retired last year to open a separate climate science and advocacy center at the Earth Institute. Schmidt is only the third person to hold the GISS post.
“Gavin is a highly respected climate scientist who already also has proven himself as a terrific leader,” said NASA’s chief scientist, Ellen Stofan. “He is the perfect candidate to continue leading this vital research institute at a critical time for the U.S. and the world.”
Schmidt, an expert in climate modeling, began his career at GISS in 1996. His primary focus is the simulation of past, present and future climates. He has worked on developing and improving computer models that integrate ocean, atmosphere and land processes to simulate earth’s climate, and is particularly interested in how their results can be compared to data on past climates.
Schmidt received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Oxford University in 1988 and a doctorate in applied mathematics from University College London in 1994. He came to New York as a 1996 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration postdoctoral fellow.
In addition to more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, he is the coauthor of the book Climate Change: Picturing the Science (W.W. Norton, 2009), a collaboration between climate scientists and photographers. He is a driving force behind the widely read realclimate.org blog, and frequently appears in the mass media to discuss climate. In 2011, he was awarded the American Geophysical Union’s Climate Communications Prize.
GISS was founded in 1961 as NASA’s theoretical division for work on planetary atmospheres, under the direction of Robert Jastrow. Today, it is a leading research laboratory on earth’s climate. Major areas of research include remote sensing and simulation of earth’s climate; the forces driving climate change, and its impacts on human society, agriculture and ecosystems; and continuing work on climates of other planets in the solar system and beyond. GISS works closely with partners at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and with both the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Engineering.