Jim Hansen has served as director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York since 1981. He is also adjunct professor of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University. With a PhD in physics and an MS in astronomy from the University of Iowa, Hansen has long held the belief that the most exciting planetary research involves increasing our knowledge of climate change on earth, particularly changes caused by human influences on atmospheric composition. With colleagues at GISS and abroad, he is developing and applying global numerical models to better understand climate trends. For him, the scientific excitement in comparing theory with data, and developing some understanding of global changes that are occurring, is what makes all the other stuff worthwhile.
In January 2009, Hansen received the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, the American Meteorological Society’s highest honor. He was also named by EarthSky Communications and a panel of 600 scientist-advisors as the 2008 Scientist Communicator of the Year for being an outspoken authority on climate change and for communicating clearly with the public about vital science issues and concepts.
Hansen is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, which awarded him the Roger Revelle Medal in 2002. He is also a recipient of the Leo Szilard Lectureship Award of the American Physical Society. He has won two U.S. Presidential Rank awards for meritorious service as a government executive and is a Dan David Prize laureate.