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NASA appoints climate advisor to prioritize Earth science in Biden administration

Gavin Schmidt will serve as acting senior climate advisor at NASA.
Gavin Schmidt will serve as acting senior climate advisor at NASA. (Image credit: NASA)

Tackling the climate crisis is one of President Joe Biden's top priorities, and NASA has created a new role to match.

The senior climate advisor will report directly to NASA's administrator and work with a range of agency departments that touch on climate. Gavin Schmidt, who has led NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York for 14 years, will serve as acting senior climate advisor until the role is permanently filled.

"He's been involved with climate-change research and modeling for many years, I think he'll do a great job," acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk told Space.com.

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As for filling the position for the longer term, that will wait for the Biden administration to appoint and the Senate to confirm a new NASA administrator, he said.

"Our plan is to hopefully in the not-too-distant future have a NASA administrator nominated and confirmed and get that person on board and then see how they would like to fill that position," Jurczyk said.

NASA is one of the federal government's key providers of observations about our planet and its atmosphere and climate. The agency operates nearly two dozen Earth-observing satellites and several instruments attached to the International Space Station dedicated to studying Earth, according to NASA; over a dozen more missions are being designed. These projects study everything from ocean temperatures and ice coverage to atmospheric composition and vegetation.

But the senior climate advisor won't be confined to those missions, Jurczyk said. The position is also meant to work with, for example, NASA's aeronautics division to use fuel more efficiently or with other agencies to develop energy technology for use in space and on Earth alike.

In addition to work within NASA proper, the senior climate advisor will also collaborate with other offices in the executive branch, particularly the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget, according to a NASA statement about the position.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.