Sunday, 17 January 2010

Tracking the Elusive Oregon Signer, part 2

Okay, in part one, I reported on one of two listed California signers of the Oregon Petition whose names matched one I'd already collected by other means, but who had not signed any other skeptic letter or petition - leading me to dig deeper to make sure the match was legit.

The other name of a California OISM signer with a PhD that evidently matched a name already on my list was John A Ogren, PhD. The John A Ogren I had found already earned his PhD in Civil Engineering from Washington State in 1983 ("Elemental carbon in the atmosphere"). Since 1991 he's worked as a Physical Scientist with the NOAA ESRL in Boulder, CO, and since 1994 an affiliate faculty member at Colorado State in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. His area of interest is aerosols and clouds.

His CV lists 57 journal papers, 51 conference papers and reviews, 30 invited presentations, five grad students supervised, and ten scientific committee memberships. (The CV looks a little out of date, with papers listed only up to 1998 or so; however, Google Scholar shows hits right up to the present with the author still at NOAA/ESRL.)

This is the CV of an active, publishing scientist. This might even pass the Wikipedia "prof test" for notability (not every prof is supposed to warrant their own WP page...)

So: is this the John A Ogren who signed the Oregon Petition? Nothing in his CV jumps out at me as fitting the climate skeptic type. But the big problem is that his CV shows he only lived in California for his undergrad degree and his first job from 1975-77. He left the state in 1978 - twenty years before the first Oregon Petition drive in 1998 - to take up a postdoc at Washington State. After that his career led him to Sweden for eight years, until he arrived in Colorado in 1991. He's been at NOAA/ESRL in Boulder throughout the 90's and up to the present.

So when the Oregon Petition mailings went out, this John A. Ogren was not a California resident; he was in Colorado the whole time. Even if you suppose he somehow listed his "home state", he was born in New York (in Sept. 1952, so he's 57.)

So it looks to me that this is very likely a false positive, and that some other John A Ogren of California must have signed the Oregon Petition.

But who?

Well, a bunch of Google searches on variants of John A Ogren california eventually got me to this directory of John Ogrens. Lo and behold, there is a John Allan Ogren, age 93, who has been listed in Guerneville, CA and Windsor, CA, and at some point also in Eugene, OR.

Clues! Windsor and Guerneville are right together, in Central Cal just outside of Santa Rosa. Eugene, OR is three hours by car from the OISM. The Calif/Oregon John A Ogren, now 93, would have been 81 in 1998 during the first OISM mailing. Might he have just mailed in the card? Or while in Oregon, might he have even associated with one of the seniors managing the Petition Project from the barn on Science and Medicine Road outside Cave Springs, OR?

In favor of this West coast JA Ogren is the actual California residence, and the age doesn't hurt either. However, there is no way to verify if this JA Ogren in Guerneville, CA had a PhD. Nothing turns up on line - unsurprising as he would have reached retirement age in 1981, so any publication output he may have had is basically locked away on paper.

Google Scholar does have digital records drawn from journal indices going back before the age of the internet. The Washington State/Sweden/Boulder JA Ogren began publishing around 1976, and using Advanced Search in Google Scholar with a date limit of 1976 or earlier brings up his earliest papers, matching what is in his CV.

So did the much older Oregon/California JA Ogren publish anything in the 60s or 70s? Here's a search to check: author:JA-Ogren with date range any time up to 1975. As you'll see, this returns a single item found as a citation in another work, reportedly from 1971. It's still the Washington/Sweden/Boulder guy, based on the title. I think it may be a typo/clerical error on the date, as the real match on those two authors with those title words was published in 2002 (quite the typo - no digits the same!?) Whatever went wrong with that citation, the search shows nobody named JA-Ogren published anything at all before 1976.

So the California John A Ogren, PhD, appears not to have had an academic or research career. We'll never know what he did for a living, unless someone wants to pay the $0.95 to to reveal his phone number, and then bother a complete stranger who is 93 to ask if he remembers this Oregon Petition thing, and what did he do for a living.

I'm not that nosy, myself.

One last thought: If this person used their state abbreviation on the petition card, "CO" could be mistaken for "CA" depending on one's handwriting (cursive "a" is round, Art Robinson is getting on and maybe his eyesight is going, or his typing...) So maybe the NOAA/ERSL aerosols and clouds guy actually does have doubts about manmade global warming, and expressed these in a single petition signing some time between 1998 and the present, but wrote "CO" as his state, and that was mistaken for "CA". After all, clouds and aerosols are one of those 'lots of uncertainties still' topics so popular among climate change contrarians.

Well, he hasn't gone whole hog into the climate contrarian movement, based on his CV. He's never published in Energy & Environment. He never signed any of the other dozen climate skeptic letters I've incorporated in my big list. Nor does anyone named Ogren shows up in the quotemining collections maintained by Marc Morano first for Sen. Inhofe, then more recently out on his own. It's pretty hard to fit this UWA/Sweden/Boulder guy in as the signer - very speculative.

So which John A Ogren, PhD, of California (or CO??), do you think signed the Oregon Petition - the one who now lives in California, age 93, no web traces, or the one who is a widely cited climate scientist who only lived in California briefly and left twenty years before the petition, and has done nothing else to suggest he is a climate change contrarian?

It's anybody's guess.

Or we could bother the Boulder JA Ogren by email and ask if he was the signer...

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