Thursday, February 05, 2009

Hansen Strikes Back: More On John S. Theon

I emailed James Hansen re his position in the NASA Hierarchy with respect to John S. Theon circa 1990. He was kind enough to respond as follows:


John Theon never had any supervisory authority over me.

I remember that he was in the bureaucracy at NASA Headquarters, but I cannot recall having any interactions with him. His claim of association is misleading, to say the least.

What he can legitimately say is that he had a reasonably high position in the Headquarters bureaucracy. A job in that bureaucracy is not considered to be a plum, so we should probably be grateful that somebody is willing to do it, and I don't particularly want to kick the fellow around.

You should investigate his scientific contributions to evaluate the degree to which his opinions might be listened to.

Of course you are free to quote me.

Jim Hansen

Meanwhile, a bit of digging (and about $3.00 Cdn, so someone owes me a beer) brings up this Washington Times story from 1990. In it, John Theon is referred to as a "NASA climate program chief" and, once again, does NOT come across as an AGW sceptic:

March 30, 1990 Section: A Edition: 2 Page: A1 Byline: By Ronald A. Taylor THE WASHINGTON TIMES TWT Illustration: Chart, NO PROOF OF GLOBAL WARMING, By Henry Christopher/The Washington Times

Satellites taking the most precise global temperature measurements ever have found no evidence of global warming from the "greenhouse effect" during the last decade, according to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration analysis. The data, collected from 1979 through 1988 by the TIROS-N series of weather satellites, proved that the Earth's temperature can be measured accurately by instruments probing the atmosphere from space, two scientists say in a paper to be published today in Science.

The study also provides a glimpse from space of global temperatures during the period 1979-88 - one of the hottest decades, with six of the warmest years on record.

"We found that the Earth's atmosphere goes through fairly large year-to-year changes in temperature and over that 10-year period we saw no long-term warming or cooling trend," said Roy W. Spencer of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala, study co-author.

But co-author John Christy, a climate research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, cautioned against misuse of the findings. "About the long-term global warming it does not say anything," he said. "It says for this particular snapshot you are not able to find it, but that does not mean that it is not occurring or that within a few more years we might be able to actually see it."

He added: "This does not prove that there is not a global warming. If these data are used in any kind of anti-environment statement, then I will be tremendously disappointed." He said other aspects of the environment are being affected by an excess of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Instead of measuring surface temperatures, the satellites read temperatures in the troposphere, roughly 20,000 feet above the surface, as they spun around the globe 14 times a day. Looking at chunks of the atmosphere 100 miles wide and six miles deep, the satellites were able to collect usually unavailable data from water surfaces.

Most other studies of temperature trends, some extending over more than a century, have come from the records of ground-based thermometers. These readings did not reflect the global temperature because they did not include the huge area covered by oceans.

The TIROS data also detected a cooling in the tropics from 1984 to 1986 and a "warm event" in the northern hemisphere during 1987 and 1988. On a global basis, the study found, the warmest years, in descending order, were 1987, 1988, 1983 and 1980. The coolest years were 1984, 1985 and 1986.

The findings quickly became part of growing skepticism over the need for an immediate end to the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels. "It merely confirms something that people who've examined the records have known for a long time - that it did not warm up in the 1980s," said University of Virginia climatologist Patrick Michaels. "When are we going to come down on the side of reason and logic? That's what I want to know. . . . The policy cart is way ahead of the science horse on this."

Emissions from burning fossil fuels are linked to what scientists describe as the greenhouse effect. If the planet's atmosphere is overloaded by those gases, scientists and environmentalists worry, global warming could disrupt life on Earth.

While opponents of quick action to control the greenhouse effect insisted that the study buttresses their case, climate scientists questioned the length of the study. "Ten years is not long enough," said NASA climate program chief John Theon.

Mr. Christy said he does not expect conclusive statistical evidence of global warming until the turn of the century.

"The climate may never be affected by the greenhouse effect," he said. "However, there are enough other things that are part of our own biological system that we must pay attention to what we are doing to the environment.

"The atmospheric composition is changing. Carbon dioxide is increasing, chlorofluorocarbons are increasing, other pollutants are increasing. We are losing our forests around the world. The environmental concerns are tremendous."

Global temperature is not the sole indicator of global warming, said World Resources Institute climate expert James McKenzie. "It's not that any year is going to be totally different, it's just that more and more often you're going to get hotter summers, more drought on average, more storms," he said. "It's a matter of `You bet your climate.' Which way do you want to bet?"

The climate changes may occur far more quickly, some atmospheric scientists say. Analysis of air trapped inside glaciers shows that past ice ages occurred very quickly, said Walter Broecker, climatology professor at Columbia University.

There is evidence from past glaciation that strongly suggests the climate change came "in large jumps," he said, adding: "We think that these are due to reorganizations of the ocean-atmospheric system. One of the things we have to think about for the future is that this kind of thing might occur."

Both ground temperatures and readings from the government's TIROS-N satellite from the 1979-1988 period show no conclusive global warming trend.
The satellite study confirmed wide variations in average temperatures during that period. Adding to the confusion, wide variations in temperature extremes occurred during the decade with record years for heat occuring in 1987, 1988, 1983 and 1980. The coolest years were 1984, 1985 and 1986.


Marc Morano said...

Retired NASA Atmospheric Scientist Dr. John S. Theon’s Response to James Hansen’s Reported Comments – February 5, 2009

Via Email:

-----Original Message-----
From: Jtheon [mailto:jtheon@XXXXXX]
Sent: Thursday, February 05, 2009 2:01 PM
To: Morano, Marc (EPW)
Subject: Response to Jim Hansen's e-mail


It is absurd that Hansen denies ever meeting me. We have met on numerous occasions. This just demonstrates that Hansen has a poor memory.

I worked with Hansen from about 1983 to 1994 during which time he was at GISS in NYC and I was at NASA HQ in Washington DC. I retired from NASA in 1995. I had completed 37 and 1/2 years of federal service (civilian Navy, USAF, and including 33 years with NASA.)

The money came through me. We were in the Earth Observations Program which later became the Mission to Planet Earth Program. I visited GISS at least once a year to review and evaluate the GISS work. When I visited NYC, to review the research that GISS was funded to do out of the program for which I was responsible, Hansen was most cordial. When I asked him to give a lecture in Japan, he complied.

It was what it was, and no amount of denial will change that.

I repeat what I wrote to you in January: “I was, in effect, Hansen's supervisor because I had to justify his funding, allocate his resources, and evaluate his results. I did not have the authority to give him his annual performance evaluation.”

Regarding some of the other attacks that have been aimed at me: I am truly appalled at the backbiting, vitriol that is sent by people who have nothing better to do than try to smear other people's reputations because they do not agree with their own thinking. To them, I recommend that they get a life.



End Correspondence from Dr. Theon.


(See: James Hansen’s Former NASA Supervisor Declares Himself a Skeptic: Says Hansen ‘Embarrassed NASA’ & ‘Was Never Muzzled’ – January 27, 2009 - )

Marc Morano Note:

Retired NASA Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Roy Spencer weighed in on Hansen and Theon on January 29, 2009:

“And now my old boss when I was at NASA (as well as James Hansen’s old boss), John Theon, has stated very clearly that he doesn’t believe global warming is man-made…and adding ‘climate models are useless’ for good measure.” See:

Even websites devoted to smearing and attacking scientists skeptical of anthropogenic climate fears are finding the Theon attacks way over the line. At the Deltoid blog -- no friend of climate skeptics -- several readers are lamenting the disparaging remarks against Theon. Some of its readers are now screaming “Enough” in response to the attacks on Theon.

January 31 comment on Deltoid blog: “Theon did some serious work (about 30 papers, some edited books, plus lots of monographs), including a couple of Science papers in the 60’s, so he wasn’t puffing up his accomplishments like some, and an h-index of 6. He seems to be from the meteorology (clouds and tropical rainfall) rather than the climate side of things.”

February 1 comment on Detloid: “This attempt to smear Theon is terribly, terribly thin.”

Here is a google scholar search on Theon:"author:JS+author:Theon"

Again, these comments are coming from a website devoted to vilifying global warming skeptics.

The question for those who attack Theon have to ask is: Would you be so quick to slam Theon if he came out and praised Hansen? All of the voices seeking to discredit Theon’s career and reputation would have remained completely silent if Theon had instead praised Hansen and asserted that mankind faced a “climate crisis.”

For more information on how scientists skeptical of man-made global warming fears are treated see: 1) A July 2007 Senate report details how skeptics have faced threats and intimidation - - 2) Climate Skeptics Reveal ‘Horror Stories’ of Scientific Suppression – March 6, 2008 -

# #

Marc Morano
Communications Director
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Inhofe Staff
202-224-5167 (fax)

SunMan said...

Marc Morano posts numerous fallacies in his comments. I will simply point out one. He comments:

"Would you be so quick to slam Theon if he came out and praised Hansen?"

Seriously... is this the best you can do? Trying to discredit somebody's clarifications of Dr. Theon by posing a hypothetical?

That is incredibly sophomoric.

Just one (of potentially many) reply to that ignorance is that if Dr. Theon "came out and praised Hansen" then the implies Dr. Theon would have a level of agreement with James Hansen, thereby eliminating your argument.

One thing I will say and this is after reading item after item after item of Sen. Inhofe's blather. The Senator and his staff rely on Straw Man, ad hominem, appeal to authority, and numerous other fallicies.

These attacks do not stand reasonable scrutiny and simply reflect an apparent loyalty to the petroleum money in his state. This last statement IS my opinion as I am not offering up direct evidence to support it... I am simply anticipating a relationship between Inhofe's prejudicial and libelous statements about climate change and the oil money of Oklahoma.

In my humble opinion, this Marc Morano is a stooge.