San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
The 6th Rick Battarbee Lecture will be given by Professor Eric Wolff FRS. Eric is a Royal Society Research Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University. After graduating as a chemist, he has studied ice cores from the Antarctic and Greenland for the past 30 years, using them to understand changing climate, as well as changing levels of pollution in remote areas. He also carries out research into the chemistry of the lower parts of the Antarctic atmosphere. Until June 2013, he led a programme at the British Antarctic Survey. He chaired the science committee of the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA), which produced 800,000 year records of climate from the Dome C (Antarctica) ice core and co-chairs the international initiative (IPICS) to coordinate future ice core research. His main research goal is to understand the causes of climate evolution over recent glacial cycles. He was elected as FRS in 2010, and led the Royal Society team in a joint initiative with the National Academy of Sciences on explaining climate science “Climate change: evidence and causes” in 2013. Eric has received a number of accolades in recognition of his work, including the Louis Agassiz Medal of the European Geosciences Union (2009) and the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London (2012). He was one of the founding Chief Editors of the journal Climate of the Past.
The lecture will be followed by a wine reception (6-7pm)
Ice cores and interglacials
The polar ice sheets hold one of Earth’s great sedimentary records. By drilling ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica, we can obtain ice that fell as snow, extending back so far 800,000 years in Antarctica and over 120,000 years in Greenland. Ice cores contain information about climate and numerous other environmental parameters; crucially the air bubbles trapped in the ice give access to the past composition of the atmosphere, including the greenhouse gas concentrations. In this talk I will first discuss the strengths and weaknesses of ice cores, and then demonstrate how ice cores are collected. I will then present some highlights of recent ice core research, including the information thay have given us about interglacials. This will lead me to a more general discussion about interglacials. They provide examples of warm periods in the past, but where we still have a reasonable amount of information. The last interglacial offers an especially useful example, and I will discuss the issue of estimating what happened to the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheet at a time when sea level appears to have been elevated. Finally I will discuss prospects for obtaining even older ice in the future.