The building in which GISS is located.
|Founder||Dr. Robert Jastrow|
|Focus||atmospheric and climate change|
|Affiliations||Columbia University, NASA|
The Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) is a laboratory in the Earth Sciences Division of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and a unit of the Columbia University Earth Institute. The institute is located at Columbia University in New York City.
Research at the GISS emphasizes a broad study of Global Change; the natural and anthropogenic changes in our environment that affect the habitability of our planet. These effects may occur on greatly differing time scales, from one-time forcings such as volcanic explosions, to seasonal/annual effects such as El Niño, and on up to the millennia of ice ages.
The institute's research combines analysis of comprehensive global datasets, (derived from surface stations combined with satellite data for SSTs), with global models of atmospheric, land surface, and oceanic processes. Study of past climate change on Earth and of other planetary atmospheres provides an additional tool in assessing our general understanding of the atmosphere and its evolution.
GISS was established in May 1961 by Robert Jastrow to do basic research in space sciences in support of Goddard programs. Formally the institute was the New York City office of the GSFC Theoretical Division but was known as the Goddard Space Flight Center Institute for Space Studies or in some publications as simply the Institute for Space Studies. But even before it opened, the institute had been referred to in the press as the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. It was separated from the Theoretical Division in July 1962. Its offices were originally located in The Interchurch Center, and the institute moved into Columbia's Armstrong Hall (formerly the Ostend apartments and then the Oxford Residence Hotel) in April 1966.
In the 1960s, GISS was a frequent center for high-level scientific workshops, including the "History of the Earth’s Crust Symposium" in November 1966 which has been described as the meeting that gave birth to the idea of plate tectonics. At a GISS workshop in 1967, John Wheeler popularized the term "black hole" as a short-hand for 'gravitionally completely collapsed star', though the term was not coined there. In September 1974, at a seminal meeting led by Patrick Thaddeus at GISS with John Mather (his then post-doc) and others discussions began on the possibility of building a satellite to measure both the spectrum and possible spatial fluctuations of the Cosmic Microwave Background. This led directly to the COBE satellite project and a Nobel Prize for Mather.
A key objective of Goddard Institute for Space Studies research is prediction of climate change in the 21st century. The research combines paleogeological record, analysis of comprehensive global datasets (derived mainly from spacecraft observations), with global models of atmospheric, land surface, and oceanic processes.
Climate science predictions are based substantially on historical analysis of Earth's paleoclimate (climate through geological ages), and the sea-level/ temperature/ carbon dioxide record.
Changes in carbon dioxide associated with continental drift, and the decrease in volcanism as India arrived at the Asian continent, allowed temperatures to drop & Antarctic ice-sheets to form. This resulted in a 75m drop in sea level, allowing our present-day coastlines & habitats to form and stabilize.
Global change studies at GISS are coordinated with research at other groups within the Earth Sciences Division, including the Laboratory for Atmospheres, Laboratory for Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences, and Earth Observing System science office.
Notable people who have been worked at GISS and when they were there: