Michaels resigns as state climatologist

After years of receiving heat for his controversial theories about global warming, University Environmental Science Prof. Patrick Michaels has officially resigned as the Virginia state climatologist, a position to which he was appointed in 1980.

Controversy arose in 2006 about the validity of Michaels' position, when Gov. Tim Kaine's office claimed Michaels did not hold a governor-appointed position and said his views did not represent those of the Commonwealth. At that time, state officials said no evidence could be found that a governor had appointed a climatologist since 1980 and that the ability to appoint the climatologist shifted to the University in 2000. Michaels continually asserted that humans do not play a large role in global warming, claiming that nature is more to blame for the trend. The controversy was augmented by reports that Michaels' had received funds from a coal-burning utility.

"The governor's office stated earlier this year in an open letter interview that Michaels did not speak for climate policy for the Commonwealth of Virginia," Environmental Science Department Chair Joseph C. Zieman said. "As long as the pieces he has written have nothing legally wrong with them, however controversial, they are protected by academic freedom. University faculty are free to write about whatever they wish and can express diverse opinions."

Zieman added that Michaels -- who he described as "a member ... of a small group of people that are called skeptics" -- has not resigned as a research professor at the University.

Michaels was unable for comment regarding his resignation, and the Governor's Office declined to discuss the matter.

"We're not commenting on it," Kaine spokesperson Delancey Skinner said.

Jan Curtis, ex-officio member of the American Association of State Climatologists, said Michaels' decision "is a personal matter," adding that "there is obviously an issue that caused him to resign." Regarding the upkeep of Michaels' office, a replacement has not yet been found.

"We have not gone that far down the line in discussion yet," Zieman said. "That will come up shortly."

According to Zieman, a temporary replacement is keeping up all the functions of the office in terms of emergency preparedness and issuing drought and crop reports.

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