Joanne Simpson (1923-2010)

WUWT Readers may remember this essay: Now THIS is interesting: Pielke on Dr. Joanne Simpson in which she said:

No one seems to have properly factored in population growth and land use, particularly in tropical and coastal areas.

But as a scientist I remain skeptical. I decided to keep quiet in this controversy until I had a positive contribution to make.

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/images/content/147962main_simpson_pic.jpg

Dr. Joanne Simpson

From Roger Pielke Sr.

It is with sadness that I report on the passing of Joanne Simpson. Joanne is a giant in the science of weather and climate.

I wrote of my perspective of her legacy in the article

Pielke Sr., R.A., 2003: Joanne Simpson — An ideal model of mentorship. AMS Meteorological Monographs, Vol. 29, No. 15, 17-24.

and

Tao, W.-K., J. Halverson, M. LeMone, R. Adler, M. Garstang, R. Houze Jr., R.A. Pielke Sr., and W. Woodley, 2003: The research of Dr. Joanne Simpson: Fifty years investigating hurricanes, tropical clouds and cloud systems. AMS Meteorological Monographs, Vol. 29, No. 15, 1-15.

Her achievements have been many.  These include not only her scientific expertise and contributions, but also the model of mentorship which she promoted. She insulated and protected her staff and students from the conflicts of higher management, and dealt with such bureaucratic activities herself. She was a tireless fighter for her students and staff. This permitted an optimal environment for professional growth.

In my Pielke 2003 article, with respect to her research contributions,  I wrote

“The richness of Joanne Simpson’s research accomplishments are best appreciated by tracking our current knowledge of the atmosphere to where these concepts were first discussed in the peer-reviewed literature. Her breadth of contribution is impressive and ranges from the cumulus cloud to global scale. Early in her career, she recognized the critical role of cumulus clouds in the earth’s atmosphere, and now she continues to build on her innovative and broad expertise in such programs as the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM; Kummerow et al. 1998) and the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE; Halverson et al. 1999). When one uncovers the origin of many of our most basic concepts in atmospheric science, it is quite impressive how much of this knowledge is founded in her original work!”

She will be missed. The world is better because she lived among us.

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33 thoughts on “Joanne Simpson (1923-2010)

  1. Hopefully Dr. Joanne Simpson’s passing does not represent the passing of the the last generation of scientists for whom science was an instrument for human progress, and not personal or political progress.
    Let’s keep that hope alive.

  2. It would be a shame if Dr simpson was widely remembered for a distorted misquotation.
    Here is what she actually wrote, verbatim. The text in bold is invariably excised by the likes of Morano and Joanne Nova, [oh, and Watts ] , but it would surely be an insult to the memory of a great scientist if her true thoughts were permanently censored. By the way, Dr. Simpson is almost certainly using the word skeptical in its original, scientific meaning…
    Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly. What should we as a nation do? Decisions have to be made on incomplete information. In this case, we must act on the recommendations of Gore and the IPCC because if we do not reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and the climate models are right, the planet as we know it will in this century become unsustainable. . But as a scientist I remain skeptical….

  3. “She will be missed. The world is better because she lived among us.”
    No better testimony to one’s efforts in this world than this …
    .
    .

  4. Science relationships have unfortunately moved away from the idea that no one should get their knickers in a twist if disagreements exist. So, many keep quiet. Much the sadder that she did not find her voice and let it ring out. Not that she was a staunch one sider. She was concerned about the variables and the idea that they may be getting short shrifted. On that point she should have spoken up. Wonder what kept her quiet.
    However, she does indeed leave behind the legacy that a woman can leave quite an indelible mark in the good ‘ol boys club, which still exists, such as it is.

  5. Phil Clarke:
    “But as a scientist I remain skeptical….”
    That says it all, doesn’t it? Under pressure to make a decision on incomplete information, in a time of hysteria.
    And still remain skeptical. Still sticking to the science.
    That’s the hardcore scientific view we admire here at WUWT.

  6. Phil,
    That is what makes Dr. Simpson’s words about what the science consists of so very important, doesn’t it? She can in no way be labeled a “denier” by anyone. That is what makes the first sentence that you quoted (“Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly.”) so significant about the current sorry state of climate science. That she cannot be labeled a “denier” makes her statement that “The main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models.” And that “We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system.”
    By all means, Phil, let’s read Dr. Simpson’s comment in full. I’m thankful that, once she did retire, she felt compelled to make the statement she made. She must have felt very strongly about what she said in those comments. They are very revealing.

  7. Phil Clarke (16:15:14)
    The quote you referenced brings up the most important point in this debate. The scientists job is to make public the facts as they know them. Data, assumptions, and uncertainties. Where the normative arguments of policy are concerned their “vote” is no more important than mine – an engineer by training.

  8. “”” Phil Clarke (16:15:14) :
    It would be a shame if Dr simpson was widely remembered for a distorted misquotation.
    Here is what she actually wrote, verbatim. The text in bold is invariably excised by the likes of Morano and Joanne Nova, [oh, and Watts ] , but it would surely be an insult to the memory of a great scientist if her true thoughts were permanently censored. By the way, Dr. Simpson is almost certainly using the word skeptical in its original, scientific meaning…
    Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly. What should we as a nation do? Decisions have to be made on incomplete information. In this case, we must act on the recommendations of Gore and the IPCC because if we do not reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and the climate models are right, the planet as we know it will in this century become unsustainable. . But as a scientist I remain skeptical…. “””
    Perhaps Phil, for the benefit of those of us less well informed than you (or yourself if you prefer) you might explain why it was that Dr. Simpson; who was certainly as renowned as the publicity suggests; might have felt that she could not utter exactly those words, while she was in fact a highly repected member of the Institution she was at for so long associated with.
    Doesn’t that seem rather odd to you ; particularly since her public statement on the matter, was issued so quickly after she left that institution.
    Seems weirdly inexplicable to me.
    By the way; she DID say “if the climate models are right”, didn’t she.
    Who among us would disagree with her position “if the climate models are right.”
    So far I don’t see any increase in the likelihood that “the climate models may be right”.
    So as a Scientist myself, I remain skeptical that the climate models are right.

  9. Dr Simpson, RIP.
    .
    Phil Clarke (16:15:14),
    It is you, not Anthony Watts, who deliberately misrepresents Dr Simpson’s letter.
    The WUWT article you cited wasn’t about Gore or the IPCC, it was specifically regarding the problems surrounding climate models and temperature measurements, as reported on another site. The relevant part of Dr Simpson’s letter was included, with an ellipsis, which is entirely proper — and it linked to the entire letter for anyone interested. [There were a total of four ellipses, not just the one you referred to in your attempted smear.]
    Here is the article’s opening paragraph:

    The Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. weblog today includes a letter from Dr. Joanne Simpson, recently retired. He calls her “among the most preeminent scientists of the last 100 years”. It seems that she really spoke her mind on the subject of climate models and the problems of the changing measurement environment around climate monitoring stations.

    So rather than being “excised,” the article was simply highlighting the specific part of the letter relevant to the article. That is common practice used everywhere. And today’s article was quoting that earlier article verbatim.
    Now that the record has been set straight, I have a question: could your credibility go any lower?

  10. Smokey –
    It’s not clear how quoting a letter can be construed as misrepresenting it, but hey ….no matter, perhaps you would go on record as to whether you not you agree with Dr Simpson’s substantive point…
    we must act on the recommendations of Gore and the IPCC because if we do not reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and the climate models are right, the planet as we know it will in this century become nsustainable.
    Or perhaps your understanding of the science is superior to that of the late Doctor’s …?

  11. She will be dearly missed by those who knew her but not by James Hansen,
    “Some of this noise won’t stop until some of these scientists are dead” – James Hansen, 2006

  12. Phil Clarke (17:09:54) :
    Or perhaps your understanding of the science is superior to that of the late Doctor’s …?
    My understanding of computers and computer models is superior to that of Dr. Simpson and my understanding of the science is superior to Al Gores. The sole reason the alarmist position continues is due to computer illiteracy on the side of many natural scientists. This was proven in another thread and discussion I recently had here. Computers can be programmed to get whatever results you want, this can be done intentionally or what is more often the case unintentionally by simply accepting or rejecting an equation you have predetermined the outcome of the model. That has nothing to do with science.

  13. We are nearly one tenth of the way through the decade, and life on my part of the planet seems about the same as it was ten years ago – other than all the snow and cold weather we have been experiencing recently. The only thing that has become unsustainable is all the BS from the IPCC.
    “Cooling is the new warming”

  14. Phil Clarke (16:15:14) :
    By the way, Dr. Simpson is almost certainly using the word skeptical in its original, scientific meaning…
    That’s exactly the point Phil. That funny little thing called the scientific method, extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary proof, real theories make predictions that are subject to verification and falsification, reproducibility, etc, etc, etc
    We’re big fans of real, honest scientists here

  15. Thank you very much, Phil Clarke, for taking time to snipe at your opponents during a moment of tribute to a true scientist. We’ve gotten to know you so much better as a result, getting to see the full depths of your personality.

  16. Phil
    You are rigth to state that Dr Simpson called to reduce our carbon emissions.
    However, your quote from her is hardly “verbatim”, since there is a whole paragraph between the first sentence and the text you’ve put in bold. Usually, when you remove something in a quote, you should tell your readers that you have removed something with the […] symbol. Otherwise it’s misleading.

  17. Phil Clarke (16:15:14): ” It is you, not Anthony Watts, who deliberately misrepresents Dr Simpson’s letter.”……blah blah blah.
    Who the **** are you to take advantage of a very significant person’s death to advance your agenda??
    Time is made on this blog to give tribute to her…and THIS is all you can do?
    Stand down with your rants for a moment. Someone has passed on.
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  18. Phil Clarke:
    You may have missed Doug Badgero’s point. Dr Simpson made the statement “we must act on the recommendations of Gore …” clearly as a non-scientific personal opinion, worth not much more than your’s and mine. Her scientific opinion was that of scepticism, able to be verbalised only after retiring, itself a pretty sharp indictment of the AGW scientific process.

  19. whenever scientific hypotheses and eulogies become tools for longstanding left-wing political agendas, I reach for my gun.
    they did it for wellstone.
    it backfired.
    it backfired here, too.

  20. Phil Clarke was right insofar as Joanne Simpson’s words have often been shortened to convey less than the full picture of her beliefs: but the way he said it, and the timing he used, were odious; and his details were wrong.
    I think Joanne Simpson’s position appears to be close to that of the Institute of Physics, as shown in their recent submission to the UK Parliamentary enquiry: the proper practice of science has been compromised, and must be re-established; yet the belief in AGW remains. However, if the proper practice of Science is re-established, the evidence for AGW will be shown to crumble, in ways that even this official face of Science would not be able to deny. UHI, station problems, false science re. water vapour and “amplification”, false and misleading CO2 science, forgetfulness of Henry’s Law, the vastness of the oceans, and the natural checks in the flora and fauna and Ca++, etc. And that’s quite apart from the IPCC intent to scarify by breaking its own rules.
    It is a shame that the funded ones point to the non-funded ones and say “you’re a funded conspiracy”; the ones in the driving seats point to the ones who have been driven out and say “you’re driving us out”; those most engaged in smear tactics point to those who are best at staying neutral and accusing them of smear tactics.

  21. If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same:.
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;
    From ‘if’ by Rudyard Kipling

  22. I support Phil Clarke’s point that her quote has been often used incorrectly to support doing nothing about AGW, whereas she definitely supported taking action.
    Lucy Skywalker: it appears that the Institute of Physics, while criticising a lack of openess in science, hypocritically is refusing to identify who wrote their submission: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/05/climate-emails-institute-of-physics-submission
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/02/institute-of-physics-emails-inquiry-submission

  23. Here’s a quote from Joanne Simpson on the climate debate, which indicates that the science is far from settled:-
    “Few of these people seem to have any skeptical self criticism left, although virtually all of the claims are derived from either flawed data sets or imperfect models or both.
    The term “global warming” itself is very vague. Where and what scales of response are measurable? One distinguished scientist has shown that many aspects of climate change are regional, some of the most harmful caused by changes in human land use. No one seems to have properly factored in population growth and land use, particularly in tropical and coastal areas.”
    It’s a sad loss to the world when a real scientist dies, may she rest in peace.

  24. The Institute of Physics is being bullied just like everyone else – and by The Guardian of course. Who would want to expose their members to that kind of low level abuse.
    I am sorry that the honourable lady has passed on, but did she say anything anywhere about the equilibrium of Earth’s climate over the past 500 million years?
    I learned today that the average level of CO2 in the atmosphere over the past 500 million years is about 2,500 parts per million. Earth’s temperature during that time remained in equilibrium – no catastrophic warming. Why the alarm over a mere 388 ppm and rising?

  25. The real tragedy of the misbehavior of pseudo-scientists, such as Jones, Hansen or Mann, is that real scientists, such as Dr. Simpson trusted them. She trusted them to accurately and comprehensively collect all relevant data. She trusted them to accurately process the data. She trusted them to build models that followed the data. She trusted them to develop those models based on verifiable causal relationships.
    They betrayed the trust.
    (As an aside, Phil, based on what has been revealed so far from “Climategate,” I will assert that I know more about data collection and reduction, and modeling and simulation, than Jones, Mann, Hansen,, et. al. And considerably more about scientific integrity.)

  26. Re Turboblocke (03:30:00) : …
    “I support Phil Clarke’s point that her quote has been often used incorrectly to support doing nothing about AGW, whereas she definitely supported taking action.”
    How can you state this without stating this part of what she said ” …if… the climate models are right… The climate models do not match the observations. The disaster senarios are not happening. James Hansen was not correct.

  27. When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
    And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
    And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
    Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
    How many loved your moments of glad grace,
    And loved your beauty with love false or true,
    But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
    And loved the sorrows of your changing face…
    – WB Yeats

  28. Poptech (17:40:21) :
    Phil Clarke (17:09:54) :
    “Or perhaps your understanding of the science is superior to that of the late Doctor’s …?”
    My understanding of computers and computer models is superior to that of Dr. Simpson and my understanding of the science is superior to Al Gores. The sole reason the alarmist position continues is due to computer illiteracy on the side of many natural scientists. This was proven in another thread and discussion I recently had here. Computers can be programmed to get whatever results you want, this can be done intentionally or what is more often the case unintentionally by simply accepting or rejecting an equation you have predetermined the outcome of the model. That has nothing to do with science.

    The computer models show CO2 increases warming because that is what the models are programmed to do.

  29. The only way the formidable pair could be separated.
    My thoughts are with her equally stratospheric husband Robert, her children, David, Steven and Karen and their children.
    Yesterday we all lost.

  30. Well, thanks for the feedback, everyone (I await smokey’s answer to my question). I think it is worth repeating, as her words were so ruthlessly suppressed so many times that Dr Simpson, described above as ‘ a giant in the science of weather and climate.’ was of this opinion..
    … we must act on the recommendations of Gore and the IPCC because if we do not reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and the climate models are right, the planet as we know it will in this century become unsustainable.
    It is fitting that WUWT honours the memory of this remarkable lady and it behoves us all to reflect on these wise words.
    Lucy Skywalker – on the theme of misquotation, may I politely draw to your attention that your Greenworld Trust page on climate science has this Sir John Houghton, first co-chair of the IPCC, said, “Unless we announce disasters no one will listen”
    As it is now several weeks since it emerged that Sir John said no such thing, in order not to mislead visitors to the site, (not to mention libelling Sir John), can I suggest you remove this falsehood?
    cheers,
    Phil.

  31. John W: (As an aside, Phil, based on what has been revealed so far from “Climategate,” I will assert that I know more about data collection and reduction, and modeling and simulation, than Jones, Mann, Hansen,, et. al. And considerably more about scientific integrity.)
    Please be more specific, John. Exactly which study or studies, papers or theses have had to be retracted or revised as a result of the selective and illicit publication of private correspondence on the internet?
    I count zero, but clearly you know better. I invite you to expand upon your assertion …
    Also, you mention Dr Hansen in connection with ‘climategate’ . In which mail is he mentioned or implicated?

  32. Good Job!
    Would it be possible to show what the curve looks like for small populations in the 2 to 200 range?
    The other interesting item would be how far the UHI effect goes from very low populations. There also must be a significant effect depending on whether or not artificial heating or cooling is occurring in the houses.
    Dave w

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