Ambassador Award

Gerald R. North

Texas A&M University


Citation for Gerald North 

Dr. North has demonstrated preeminence in atmospheric, oceanic, and hydrologic sciences, through his own paradigmshift research and promotion of science through his leadership and services to the communities. He was one of the original proposers and the study scientist for the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), a partnership with Japan. The TRMM satellite orbited 17 years, providing unique data for climate research and tropical weather forecasting to the atmospheric, hydrological, and oceanic science communities. 

He pioneered interdisciplinary collaboration in climate sciences, which was critical at the national and international levels. For more than half century, he has been on the forefront of promoting understanding of climate change as a prominent scientific leader and an effective and skillful spokesman, advocator, and communicator for various scientific communities and professional societies. 

He delivered numerous lectures at NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)conferences and workshops on climate and climate change, which were attended by scientists throughout the NATO countries. He participated in many meetings in Geneva, in conjunction with the committees on climate change, under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization. These were forerunners of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). His pioneering effort was instrumental in promoting international collaboration in climate sciences and key to the establishment of the IPCC. 

Dr. North was selected to chair the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review of the "hockey stick" graph, at the request by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science. The committee’s report,Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years, evaluated reconstructions of the temperature record over the past millennia and provided an objective and authoritative overview of the state of the science and the implications for understanding of global warming. NAS issued a press release on this report: “High Confidence That Planet Is Warmest in 400 Years.” Over the past few years, this document has been at the center of one of the most heated and confrontational arguments in the climate change policy debate. The report has been covered widely in the press and even became the subject of a congressional inquiry. Two of his fellow panelists stated, “North was masterful in his role as Panel chair, maintaining cordiality in the face of tough and not always well-intended questions from the congresspersons” and “He was very effective in listening to testimony from all perspectives and finding a middle ground that nobody could object to and leading the writing of these conclusions.” 

Renyi Zhang, Texas A&M University, College Station


I am thankful to my colleague and nominator and the recommenders for their support for one of the 2020 AGU Ambassador Awards. I entered climate science in 1974 after a Ph.D. and tenured faculty position in theoretical physics. My career has been a sequence of fortunate and formative moves, starting with a sabbatical year at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, then extended summer visits to such institutions as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; the Main Geophysical Observatory in Leningrad;the Goddard Institute for Space Studies;the University of Reading, United Kingdom; and lots of shorter stops around the world. 

I spent 8 years at the Goddard Space Flight Center and helped in promoting a successful satellite program. One of my roles was in leading statistical feasibility studies for the mission and other statistical methodologies in climate science. In those years I devoted a lot of effort to learning and helping to build a hierarchy of energy balance climate models, which were used mostly for deepening our understanding of climate model applications, past and present. In working through the projects, I was blessed with working alongside some of the most brilliant and dedicated scientists in the world. 

I moved back to academia in 1986 as a faculty member at Texas A&M. My many visits to the USSR, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and many others taught me perspective and learning from new friends, and I aimed to spread and absorb good science and good will. Because of the broad disciplinary reach of climate science I have worked with men and women in many disciplines, from physics, paleo- and classical climatology, meteorology, geochemistry, mathematics, agriculture, statistics, computer science, geology, geophysics, geography, and economics. 

I have also visited over the years nearly all of the NASA and most of the Department of Energy laboratories, as well as those mentioned above. What a great pleasure it has been. My story is told in a recently published book of memoirs. Maybe I was cut out to be a sort of ambassadoranyway, I humbly accept the honor bestowed by AGU.

Gerald R. North, Texas A&M University, College Station