His research has been closely aligned with the development of increasingly sophisticated satellite platform measurements, such as the terrestrial radiation budget, ozone and weather-related data, and the need for increasingly sophisticated atmospheric models to assess and evaluate the information content and utility of these measurements. Current climate models are now able to reproduce the historical temperature record over the past century and to make climate change predictions for the future, keeping pace with NASA's measurements of solar energy variations, sea level change and polar ice loss with unprecedented precision and accuracy.
Hansen's climate analyses have been based not only on the very basic physics that goes into climate model design, but on the detailed studies of the geological ice core and isotope records that are used to constrain and confirm climate model sensitivity. In recent years Hansen has drawn attention to the danger of passing climate tipping points, producing irreversible climate impacts that would yield a different planet from the one on which civilization developed.
Hansen has received many honors worldwide. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1995; received the Heinz Award for the Environment, and the American Geophysical Union's Roger Revelle Medal in 2001; the World Wildlife Federation's Conservation Medal from the Duke of Edinburgh; and was designated by Time Magazine as one of the "World's Most Influential People" in 2006. In 2007, Hansen received the Dan David Prize in the field of Quest for Energy and the Leo Szilard Award of the American Physical Society for Outstanding Promotion and Use of Physics for the Benefit of Society. In 2009, he was awarded the American Meteorological Society's Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, and the Sophie and Blue Planet Prizes in 2002. In 2012, he was awarded the Stephen Schneider Award for Climate Science Communications by Climate One, an initiative of the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.
Hansen is also known for the book he wrote in 2009, "Storms of My Grandchildren." He also serves as adjunct professor for Earth and Environmental Studies at Columbia University's Earth Institute.GISS is NASA's cutting-edge Earth climate research laboratory. Major areas of GISS research include research measurements of Earth's changing climate, research on impacts humans are having on the climate, research on human impacts of climate change, research on climate modeling, and some research that makes use of climate models to study planetary atmospheres.