He would go on to lead development of Goddard Institute Earth System Model, an enormous computer program that can simulate the planet’s climate system and can show how phenomena like rising carbon dioxide levels cause warming. Over time, he came to draw on so many fields that he had to become a climate polymath, broadly focused instead of drilling down on a single topic, as many experts do. It helped make him a gifted communicator of science.
In 2004, he helped start a blog, Real Climate, in hopes of explaining climate science to the general public and science journalists. But an additional audience was paying attention: other scientists.
“One of the big surprises that emerged out of that was how many other climate scientists actually needed help to understand climate science” beyond their own fields, he said.
When the American Geophysical Union gave out its first climate communication prize in 2011, it went to Dr. Schmidt for having “transformed the climate dialogue on the web,” the group said in its citation.
Everything Dr. Schmidt has done came together, he said — and that even includes his skill at juggling, a hobby that he took up in high school, thinking at the time, he recalled, “Oh, that’s going to be helpful with the ladies.” He honed his juggling skills over the years, beginning in Australia, when he lived with a juggling busker.
Today, he attributes the hobby with helping him build the confidence it took to perform before crowds — his 2014 TED Talk has been viewed 1.3 million times. “It turns out that the things that I spent time doing or learning or practicing all played a role in helping that evolution along,” he said.
He also picked up unicycling, which in turn led to the sport of unicycle hockey, which is pretty much what it sounds like. He played on the British national championship team for the sport, breaking an arm at one point.