|Abstract: Glaciers are among the first responders to global warming, serving both as indicators and drivers of climate change. Over the last 35 years ice core records have been recovered systematically from both polar regions as well as twelve high-elevation ice fields, eleven of which are located in middle and tropical latitudes. Analyses of these ice cores and of the glaciers from which they have been drilled have yielded three lines of evidence for abrupt climate change both past and present. They are: (1) the temperature and precipitation histories recorded in the glaciers as revealed by the climate records extracted from the ice cores; (2) the accelerating loss of the glaciers themselves, specifically Quelccaya ice cap, Peru, Kilimanjaro, Africa and Naimona’nyi, Himalayas will be updated with 2009 results and; (3) the uncovering of ancient plants and animals from the margins of the glaciers as a result of their recent melting, thus illustrating the significance of the current ice loss. The current melting of high-altitude, low-latitude ice fields is consistent with model predictions for a vertical amplification of temperature in the tropics. The ongoing global-scale, rapid retreat of mountain glaciers and more recently the margins of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is not only contributing to global sea level rise, but is also threatening fresh water supplies in many of the world’s most populous regions. The current and present danger posed by ongoing climate change is clear. Climatologically we are in unfamiliar territory and the world’s ice cover is responding dramatically however the human response to this issue is not so clear. Even though the evidence both from data and models becomes more compelling each year, and numerous documentations of global climate change such as in four IPCC documents, the rate of global carbon dioxide emissions for example, continues to accelerate. As a society we have three options (1) prevention, (2) adaptation and (3) suffering. The lecture will explore the human response to environmental changes in the past and what makes the current issues surrounding global climate change different.
Lonnie G. Thompson is a Distinguished University Professor at thee School of Earth Sciences and Senior Research Scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center at The Ohio State University. Dr. Thompson, one of the world's most renowned paleoclimatologists, has been described as an "ice hunter," and a "translator" who deciphers messages trapped in ice cores that tell the history of the world's climate. He has led more than 50 expeditions during the last 30 years, to remote ice caps in Peru, Bolivia, China, Antarctica, Russia, Kenya, and other regions. Thompson's findings have resulted in major revisions in the field of paleoclimatology by demonstrating how tropical regions have undergone significant climate variability, countering the earlier view that higher latitudes dominate climate change. Thompson's research has been featured in hundreds of publications, including National Geographic and the National Geographic Adventure magazines, and is highlighted in An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's documentary film on global warming, for which Thompson was a consultant. One of Time magazine's 2008 Heroes of the Environment, Thompson was identified in the magazine's October 6 issue as one of six scientists and innovators whose work is key to addressing global climate change. Thompson's many honors and awards include the Tyler World Prize for Environmental Achievement (2005), the environmental sciences equivalent of a Nobel Prize, and the U.S. National Medal of Science (2007), the highest honor the United States bestows on an American scientist. The story Thompson's data tell of the history of the Earth's climate and its implications for climactic change should be of great interest to ABAI's membership, as one of the most pressing issues facing humankind is whether we will change|