Woody Guthrie award for a thinking blogger


It’s been a while since I received the Woody Guthrie award from the hands of Nick Stokes. Time to pass it on…


The ‘Woody Guthrie award for a thinking blogger’ goes to John Nielsen-Gammon. A professional climatologist, he also writes a very readable and insightful blog entitled Climate Abyss.

He writes about different topics, often on scientific issues (e.g. extreme weather) and occasionally also on the science-policy interface or science as a process. He is scrupulous about distinguishing these different aspects though: The physics is what it is, irrespective of his or other people’s political viewpoints (about which he hardly ever writes, if at all). 

I admire his writing for its scientific honesty, the clarity of expositions and the insights that they provide. From his forays over to CE and CA he has also shown himself to be a skilled e-debater: He understands climate change and knows how to discuss both the big picture and quite a string of detailed issues. One other thing I’d like to mention is that he seems to be a good bridge builder: Probably because he studiously refrains from appearing political, doesn’t eschew working together with contrarians (e.g. he co-authored a paper withWatts), and is respectful in his communications, he seems to be respected by (at least the less fanatical of the) contrarians. He does so without giving up on his scientific integrity however (he will still call a spade a spade), so it doesn’t (afaik) go at the cost of being respected by fellow scientists and mainstream science-minded bloggers. Kudos to John!

Read this interview to get a feel for his scientific persona. He also has a wikipedia page. See Willard for a collection of memorable ‘John N-G’ quotes.

Some highlights from his blog:

A recent post outlined his response to a newspaper editorial, dealing with attribution of extreme weather:

In my own state,Texas, we just experienced our warmest month ever, by a margin of 0.4 C.  It is not useful to ask whether that record is proof of global warming.  There are multiple causes working together to produce every extreme weather event.  But there’s no denying that the first decade of the 21st century was warmer than any decade of the 20th century, or that this warmth was part of a multi-decade trend that shows zero evidence of reversing itself.  Once we accept that fact, it’s fair to say that the Texas record is a few tenths of a degree warmer than it would have been in the absence of a global trend, and that it may not have been a record-breaker at all if the temperatures everywhere hadn’t been so warm to start with.  This is not proof of global warming, as unnamed headline-writers may have claimed; it’s a consequence of it.

In the aftermath of the Steig – O’Donnell kerfuffle, I cited some of John’s posts:

John Nielsen-Gammon has some useful things to say about peer review here (on revealing the identity of reviewer), here (retelling the story and why it makes sense to have had Steig as a reviewer; quoting Steig; interesting discussion), and here (explaining the dynamics of peer review and making the interesting suggestion of mentoring  relative outsiders navigate peer review).

He did some real investigative reporting into the IPCC Himalayan glacier error.

In this sarcastic post he replies to some dude who brings up a string of old ‘n tired memes, centred on a supposed “lack of correlation”. John answers with wit and style:

Ironically, while polyester triggered global warming, it may also provide a way forward. If every man, woman, and child in the United States would buy one pair of polyester pants every five minutes and promptly bury them in their backyard, we would sequester more carbon than we presently emit into the atmosphere. In the immortal words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “You have nothing to fear but your pants!”

About the award: Nick helpfully laid out the history of the Woody Guthrie award when he got it a while ago: ArchieArchive brought it into the world and it’s had an interesting life since then, at some point being passed on to scientifically minded climate bloggers such as Greenfyre, Dan Satterfield, SkepticalScience, Science of Doom, Nick Stokes @Moyhu, myself, and now John N-G.

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3 Responses to “Woody Guthrie award for a thinking blogger”

  1. willard Says:

    Elegant choice.

    Readers who do not know John Nielsen-Gammon could start with this serie of articles:


    This serie reminded me of the Spanish Prisoner:


  2. Ned Says:

    Nice choice.

    Let’s see, it went from Skeptical Science to Science of Doom to Nick Stokes to you and now to John N-G …

    Maybe it should be renamed the Woody Guthrie award for a thinking climate-change blogger.

    [Edited to add that I see that John N-G has commented: “With other Guthrie threads out there doing who knows what, I propose that this Guthrie remain officially ensconced in the realm of Earth Science bloggers who think critically and hope for a better world through better education and an honest media. “]

  3. John’s Audit | …and Then There's Physics Says:

    […] might as well introduce John to new Climateball players. In 2011, he received the Woody Guthrie award for a thinking blogger from Bart Verheggen. In his Thank You post he lists his favorite posts from his blog. No idea what […]

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