Dr. Lonnie G. Thompson

Dr. Lonnie G. Thompson will discuss his research into climate change Oct. 18 as the 2005 Harold McMaster Visiting Scientist.

Expert on ancient ice to discuss global climate change

Dr. Lonnie G. Thompson, whose studies of ancient ice worldwide have advanced the understanding of global climate change, will discuss his work at BGSU next week.

He will speak on “Rapid Climate Change in the Earth System: Past, Present and Future” at 4 p.m. Oct. 18 in 308 Bowen-Thompson Student Union. His talk is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception.

Thompson, a Distinguished University Professor of Geological Sciences at Ohio State University and a research scientist at OSU’s Byrd Polar Research Center, has moved the study of ice core paleoclimatology from the polar ice fields to the highest tropical and subtropical ice fields. His research provides an insight into natural climate change, ultimately making it possible to assess the effects of human beings on the earth's climate, something which has been a source of heated debate among researchers for many years.

He and his team, the “Ice Group,” have developed solar-powered drilling equipment that enables them to take deep samples from ice fields from the South American Andes to Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro. He has taken core samples from the rapidly melting glaciers located on the equators, preserving important histories unavailable elsewhere. The histories of those paleoclimates have been published in more than 175 articles and have added another dimension to the study of how climate has changed over time.

His work has resulted in major revisions in the field of paleoclimatology, in particular showing that tropical regions have undergone significant climate changes, countering a previous view that the higher latitudes dominate climate change.

He recovered the first tropical ice core in 1983 from the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru, and in 1987 obtained an ice core from the world’s oldest ice, in Tibet, dating back 700,000 years. The ice contains a clear record of phenomena such as El Niño and the Asian Monsoon in a similar way to tree rings, except that the ice history goes much further back in time and contains much more information.

His research over the past 20 years has shown that the famous snows of Mount Kilimanjaro, in existence for over 11,000 years, are melting so quickly that they could disappear by 2015. He and his team are racing to obtain samples from that and other ice fields before it is too late to gather the important information they have to share.

He has placed special emphasis on the El Niño and monsoon systems that dominate the climate of the tropical Pacific and affect global-scale oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns.

Thompson has received many accolades from numerous national and international organizations. Among them are the 2005 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and the 2002 Dr. A. H. Heinecken Prize for Environmental Sciences, given by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Thompson was born in Huntington, W.Va., in 1948 and graduated from Ohio State in geology in 1973. He has remained at OSU since then, earning his doctorate in 1976 (based on research into micro-particles in ice and the climate) and becoming a professor of geological sciences in 1994.

The results of his research regularly appear in the journals Nature and Science and have appeared in National Geographic and National Geographic Adventure. In 2001, Time magazine and CNN added his name to the list of “America's Best in Science and Medicine.” Thompson also sits on a number of advisory bodies in his field, is a member of the editorial team of several journals and of a number of international partnerships, and leads one or more research expeditions every year.

The guest speaker is the University's second McMaster Visiting Scientist, in a program underwritten by a $250,000 endowment funded by Helen and the late Harold McMaster. The longtime BGSU benefactors, from Perrysburg, funded the interdisciplinary program to bring eminent scholars or practitioners from the fields of chemistry, biology, geology, physics or astronomy to the University.

His visit is also sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences.

October 10, 2005