Florida Scientists Urge Nelson, Rubio to Oppose Bridenstine Nomination

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

A group of more than 40 Florida scientists have signed an open letter to Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) to oppose the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to become NASA administrator.

“The vital work of NASA’s Earth observation systems must continue without political interference,” the letter states. “We find it troubling that Congressman Bridenstine has repeated misinformation in his quest to deny climate change, notably in 2013 when he suggested that global temperatures were not rising….

“We urge you to oppose Jim Bridenstine’s nomination,” the letter adds. “He has no scientific training and little administrative experience and he is not qualified to lead this prestigious agency.”

Nelson and Rubio have expressed concerns about Bridenstine’s nomination, saying that putting a politician in charge of NASA could hurt bi-partisan support for the civilian space agency in Congress.

Bridenstine’s nomination has attracted widespread support within the space industry for his efforts in Congress to support changes in civil, commercial and military space programs.

However, the scientists argue that the issue of climate change is too important to the country — and Florida, in particular — to allow Bridenstine to lead NASA.

“Make no mistake; our Earth is getting warmer,” they wrote. “As humans continue to add heat-trapping gases to our atmosphere, we must keep a close eye on how our changing climate will impact society and our way of life. Florida, in particular is vulnerable to rising seas and more extreme weather events. Sea level rise is an existential threat to our state.”

The full letter is below.

Open letter from Florida scientists to U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio
re: NASA Administrator Nominee Jim Bridenstine

October 6, 2017

Dear Senator Nelson and Senator Rubio,

We are writing to thank you both for your outspoken concerns regarding Congressman Jim Bridenstine’s nomination to serve as NASA Administrator. We share those concerns.

As scientists, we wholeheartedly agree that leading NASA requires someone with qualifications in science, administration, engineering and technology. NASA satellites produce data that helps keep America safe. Scientists use these data to measure changes in our oceans, moisture in our soil, rising seas, forecast hurricane tracks, and monitor drinking water supplies.

At this critical time, we can ill afford to allow this vital agency be subject to political whims. There is too much at stake.

Of all of the scientific agencies worldwide, NASA does the best job of observing our planet from space. We must continue to be the leader in Earth observation systems. Cutting funding for satellites will rob us of our ability to safeguard our planet and resources.

One satellite in particular – Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment – known as GRACE, uses gravity to measure mass. Grace is at the end of its life and needs to be funded for continuity. While originally conceived to help guide ballistic missiles, data from Grace has facilitated multiple scientific discoveries, including the following:

  • Grace measured the rate of melting ice in Greenland and the Antarctic.
  • Grace kept track of diminishing groundwater supplies in California’s aquifers during the drought.
  • Grace helped scientists decipher how much much sea level rise is caused by melting ice sheets and how much is caused by thermal expansion.
  • Most recently, Grace allowed scientists to track flood patterns, soil moisture and power failures all over East Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
  • Importantly for Florida – just recently, Geophysical Research Letters reported that scientists are using data from Grace to determine the world’s most vulnerable coastal area by “fingerprinting” sea level rise, which will help researchers predict how climate change will affect storm surges in flood-prone coastal areas.
  • The original Grace mission launched in 2002 and is nearing its end-of-life with fuel running out, https://grace.jpl.nasa.gov ), and its important work must continue.

Other important NASA Earth science missions include:

  • CLARREO Pathfinder Mission will set climate benchmarks critical for assessing changes in the Earth system to optimize strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change.
  • The Orbiting Carbon Observatory measures, with high precision and high resolution, carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.
  • DISCOVR, the Deep Space Climate Observatory, supports the sophisticated EPIC camera monitoring Earth.
  • The PACE mission studies harmful algal blooms and volcanic ash eruptions among other things. Their work helps safeguard our shellfish supply.
  • The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2 known as ICESat-2 is a laser altimeter to measure elevation and provide mass balance of ice sheets and sea ice, to be launched in Sep 2018, https://icesat-2.gsfc.nasa.gov
  • Operation IceBridge deploys airborne missions over Arctic and Antarctic to measure sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers, and elevation. This work is ongoing since 2009 and is expected to continue into 2019 https://icebridge.gsfc.nasa.gov
  • Soil Moisture Active/Passive (SMAP) is a microwave instrument to measure soil moisture and freeze/thaw state of ground (the main applicability to polar regions). It also has the potential to estimate thin sea ice. https://smap.jpl.nasa.gov
  • Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (Suomi VIIRS) is a joint mission with NOAA to examine sea ice concentration, ice surface temperature, sea ice thickness, land snow extent, surface reflectivity/albedo with a visible/infrared sensor. It was launched in 2011. https://jointmission.gsfc.nasa.gov/viirs.html
  • Joint Polar Satellite System Program (JPSS-1) is a joint mission with NOAA, to follow up on Suomi and examine sea ice concentration, ice surface temperature, sea ice thickness, land snow extent and surface reflectivity/albedo. Launch scheduled for November 2017. http://www.jpss.noaa.gov
  • Aqua/Terra: NASA Earth Observing System (EOS) missions launched in 1999 (Terra) and 2002 (Aqua), a suite of several instruments to provide information on sea ice concentration, snow cover (on sea ice and land), reflectivity/albedo, sea surface temperature, clouds and radiative fluxes. https://eospso.nasa.gov
  • Special Sensor Microwave Imager and Sounder (DMSP SSMIS) deploy DoD sensors for the sea ice time series developed by NASA and archived at NASA centers.
  • Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR2) is a JAXA (Japanese) sensor which NASA uses to create data products on sea ice and snow.
  • CryoSat-2: an ESA sensor, radar altimeter measures surface elevation, and NASA is creating data products from it, including on sea ice thickness.

The vital work of NASA’s Earth observation systems must continue without political interference.

We find it troubling that Congressman Bridenstine has repeated misinformation in his quest to deny climate change, notably in 2013 when he suggested that global temperatures were not rising.

Climate and weather are intertwined and while we know that Congressman Bridenstine has publicly expressed desire for better weather prediction capabilities, we cannot predict weather events if we ignore emerging trends.

NASA must remain an independent scientific agency, and its critical Earth science missions must continue and expand. We agree as you have both said, that NASA should remain free of politics and partisanship.

We urge you to oppose Jim Bridenstine’s nomination. He has no scientific training and little administrative experience and he is not qualified to lead this prestigious agency.

Make no mistake; our Earth is getting warmer. As humans continue to add heat-trapping gases to our atmosphere, we must keep a close eye on how our changing climate will impact society and our way of life. Florida, in particular is vulnerable to rising seas and more extreme weather events. Sea level rise is an existential threat to our state.

Thank you again for speaking your mind about the Jim Bridenstine nomination and we trust you and your colleagues in the U.S. Senate will do the right thing to protect Floridians and all Americans.

Sincerely,

Senthold Asseng, Professor
Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department
University of Florida

Leonard Berry, Ph. D.
Emeritus Professor of Geosciences
Florida Atlantic University

Henry O. Briceño, Professor
Southeast Environmental Research Center
& Department of Earth and Environment
Florida International University

Mya Breitbart, Professor
College of Marine Science
University of South Florida

Kristen Buck, Assistant Professor
College of Marine Science
University of South Florida

William S. Castle, Professor Emeritus [Horticulture]
Citrus Research & Education Center
University of Florida

Linda M. Callejas, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor
Department of Child & Family Studies
University of South Florida

Jeff Chanton, Professor
Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science,
Florida State University

Eric Chassignet, Professor and Director
Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS)
Florida State University

Dr. Allan J. Clarke
The Adrian E. Gill Professor of Oceanography
Distinguished Research Professor
Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science
Florida State University

Dr. Amy Clement
Department of Atmospheric Science
University of Miami

Anne J Cox, Professor of Physics
Natural Sciences
Eckerd College

Jeffrey A Cunningham, Ph.D., Associate Professor,
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of South Florida

Kimberly Dobrinski, PhD
Assistant Professor, Biology
University of Tampa

Robert G. Ellingson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus
Department of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Science
Florida State University

Shannon Grogan, Master’s Candidate
Integrative Biology Department
The University of South Florida

Jude W. Grosser, Professor of Citrus Breeding and Genetics
Citrus Research and Education Center
University of Florida

David Hastings, Professor
Marine Science and Chemistry
Eckerd College

Nicole Hernandez Hammer
Biologist

Chuanmin Hu, Professor
College of Marine Science
University of South Florida

Daniel Huber, Associate Professor
Biology Department
The University of Tampa

Elizabeth Kiebel, M.S., doctoral student
Department of Psychology
University of South Florida

Ben Kirtman, Professor
Department of Atmospheric Science
Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
University of Miami

Marguerite, Koch, Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
Florida Atlantic University

Cory J. Krediet, Assistant Professor
Marine Science and Biology
Eckerd College

William M. Landing
Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science
Florida State University

Steve Leitman
Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Florida State University

Juliana Leonard, PhD Student
Environmental and Ecological Microbiology
Department of Integrative Biology
University of South Florida

Ken Lindeman, Professor
Sustainability Program Chair
Florida Institute of Technology

J. William Louda, Research Professor
Environmental Biogeochemistry Group
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and The Environmental Sciences Program
Florida Atlantic University

Talea L. Mayo, Assistant Professor
Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering
University of Central Florida

David Mertens
Assistant Professor of Physics
Eckerd College

Karena Nguyen, PhD Candidate
Department of Integrative Biology
University of South Florida

John H. Parker
Emeritus Professor of Environmental Science and Chemistry
Department of Earth and Environment
Florida International University

Randall W. Parkinson, Ph.D., P.G.
Research Faculty Affiliate, Sea Level Solutions Center
Florida International University

Chloe Ramsay, PhD
Integrative Biology
University of South Florida

Athena Rycyk, Visiting Assistant Professor of Natural Science
Marine Science
Eckerd College

Erin Sauer, PhD Candidate
Department of Integrative Biology
University of South Florida

Michael Savarese, Ph.D.
Professor of Geoscience
Florida Gulf Coast University

Kathleen Scott, Associate Professor
Department of Integrated Biology
University of South Florida

Amy NS Siuda, PhD, Assistant Professor of Marine Science
Collegium of Natural Sciences
Eckerd College

Philip Stoddard, PhD
Dept Biological Sciences
Florida International University

Yang Wang, Professor
Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science
Florida State University

Harold R. Wanless
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Miami

Suzanne Young, PhD Candidate
Integrative Biology
University of South Florida

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are strictly those of the individuals and do not reflect the official policy or position of their respective organization.

  • ThomasLMatula

    I guess he hasn’t swore allegence yet to the pork flows (SLS/Orion) to Florida so the Florida Delegation set the scientists on him. I wonder what they promised them in return? I also wonder if the Alabama scientists will be next. The Swamp plays a mean game when you threaten their pork.

  • Douglas Messier

    Bridenstine is on record as supporting SLS & Orion and has the endorsement of Richard Shelby of Alabama. So, that premise seems far fetched. I take the letter at face value; they really are frightened about what Bridenstine and the Trump Administration is trying to do to climate research across the government.

  • duheagle

    Correct about SLS. But there is big money for academic institutions in climate scaremongery and the signatories are 100% the beneficiaries of same. Huntsville’s pork is probably safe under Bridenstine, but the Warmongers pork is certainly not.

    Hence the squealing of these particular pigs.

  • Paul_Scutts

    I agree, Doug, I’d rather that we not play “Russian Roulette” with possible causes of (potential) climate change. Regards, Paul.

  • Douglas Messier

    Everyone knows that Exxon and their ilk have spent millions upon millions sponsoring groups whose sole purpose is to discredit the science. Because they have billions in revenues at stake in a shift to other energy sources. To distract everyone, they accuse the scientists of doing what they themselves of been doing for decades.

    It seems to work. Trump has turned it into an art form. Lie through his teeth everyday about almost everything, then turn around and accuse others of purveying in fake news. Same thing here.

  • duheagle

    Yes “everyone” knows that – except the largely non-existent “groups” supposedly benefiting from all that fictional oil company largesse. The fact of the matter is that essentially all the money in Climate Change is on the scaremonger side. Colleges and universities too numerous to count have entire academic departments devoted to the subject, all at taxpayer expense. There is very little institutional support of climate change skepticism. The Heartland Institute seems to be the climate scaremongers’ favorite whipping boy. It operates on about $5.5 million per year and has other issue interests besides climate change over which it spreads its funding. The major climate skeptic websites are all volunteer operations. The organs of the organized Left always like to portray themselves as pathetic underdogs vastly overmatched by the might and limitless funds of evil multinational corporations. That’s simply crap.

  • Douglas Messier

    Poor Exxon Mobil. Conspiracy victims.

    Here are answers to all of your crappy arguments about it being a vast left wing conspiracy:

    http://grist.org/series/skeptics/

  • redneck

    One of the problems with the arguments on that link is that they are highly dependent on priors. If you believe in warming, it confirms. If you don’t, there are big holes. I went through a dozen or so and could have taken either position based on the particular article.

  • Douglas Messier

    It attempts to explain why the claims that warming isn’t real are bogus in a way that could be understood by almost anyone. There’s lots of data to back that up, but if you don’t believe in data, then yes you could take any position you wanted to.

  • Douglas Messier

    Yeah, it’s not just the Heartland Institute and its tiny budget. It’s all the contributions from industry to the politicians who couldn’t keep their jobs unless they dismiss climate science. Bridenstine is one of them. You think he could get elected in Oklahoma by accepting climate change is a serious threat? Surely you’re not THAT stupid. (Well, maybe you are.)

    You write these long winded responses based on false premises.

  • Danceswithdachshunds

    As though these 40 are the only scientists in Florida! They are just 40 who are likely being paid with government climate “research” grant money and see the gravy train going off the rails. They can go on welfare or find new careers. They’d all probably make good CPA’s.

    GRACE – Was an interesting experiment but its results were extremely variable. There were several instances where it said ice was growing or shrinking while other methods showed the opposite. Tide gauges already give us what we need to care about glacial melt. Rain gauges still work to predict drought conditions.

    Orbiting Carbon Observatory – Waste of money. Mauna Loa measures average. Spatial precision isn’t needed, we already know it doesn’t vary a whole lot = well mixed.

    PACE – Waste of money. HOW will monitoring “safeguard our shellfish supply”.(warn the shellfish to move elsewhere?)

    ICESat-2 – (See GRACE above)

    IceBridge – We already know more than we need to know – icecaps are NOT imperiled by global warming.

    SMAP – Could be useful for farming …

    Suomi VIIRS – Waste of money. We already know enough about ice, (nothing can live on or under it)

    Aqua/Terra – More wasted money on ice. There is no loss of albedo from summer arctic sea ice loss – the arctic temperature in summer has been CONSTANT since the 50’s! Explain summer temperatures when the sun is shining – http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php (Even idiots know low angle sun light reflects off open water but cannot be detected by satellites because it isn’t scattered. https://i.stack.imgur.com/ujSzR.jpg )

    DMSP SSMIS AMSR2 & CryoSat – More wasted money on ice.

    I’d be in favor of more leaf area index studies showing how more CO2 is greening the planet.