Since he was a boy growing up in Fresno, John Christy has loved weather. “I think it’s because unusual weather was so rare it really drew my attention whenever it happened,” he said. “I specifically remember January 1962, when Fresno had two mornings in a row of snow. It was beautiful and fascinating for me to watch.”
A Fresno State distinguished alumnus who is now professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Christy’s impressive credentials in climate work got the attention of former “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace.
Christy was a major participant in the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore. Christy also is director of his campus’ Earth System Science Center and the associate vice president for research.
Newsman and author Wallace selected Christy to be one of 60 “of the world’s greatest minds” to pen a chapter in a new compilation, “The Way We Will Be 50 Years From Today,” in which experts hold forth in a number of subjects.
For his part, Christy challenged notions of global warming in his 750-word entry: “What a Climatologist Cannot Know About the Next 50 Years (but What He Does Believe).”
“I do believe that the accumulating economic development throughout the world will not be sidetracked by calls to ‘stop global warming,’ which are ultimately designed to inhibit access to affordable energy,” Christy wrote. “As a result, I believe more and more people will experience better health and security and that this will be accompanied by the additional bonus of a better-preserved natural environment.”
Wallace editors e-mailed Christy a year ago to gauge his interest in the project. He failed to respond because he was busy and thought the mail came from a University of Washington colleague who also was named Mike Wallace. But a follow-up phone call from editors showed Christy otherwise.
He called the honor “head-swelling.” “There are 16 Nobel Prize winners and some other folks in the book who have made some tremendous contributions to the world,” Christy said. “Being in that company is an honor.”
Christy graduated from California State University, Fresno with a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1973 and taught physics and chemistry as a missionary teacher in Nyeri, Kenya, for two years.
After earning a Master of Divinity degree from Golden Gate Baptist Seminary in 1978, he served four years as a bivocational mission-pastor in Vermillion, S.D., where he also taught college math. He received his Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Illinois (1984, 1987).
In 1989 Dr. Roy W. Spencer (then a NASA/Marshall scientist and now a principle research scientist at UAH) and Christy developed a global temperature data set from microwave data observed from satellites beginning in 1979. For this achievement, the Spencer-Christy team was awarded NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement in 1991.
In 1996, they were selected to receive a Special Award by the American Meteorological Society “for developing a global, precise record of earth’s temperature from operational polar-orbiting satellites, fundamentally advancing our ability to monitor climate.”
In 2000, Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman appointed him to be State Climatologist. In 2002, Christy was inducted as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.
In 2007, Christy was named Distinguished Alumnus by the College of Science and Mathematics at Fresno State.
Christy’s Web page: http://www.atmos.uah.edu/atmos/christy.html