Climate change and “the great unplanned
carbon dioxide experiment"Will today´s growing greenhouse effect lead to major climatechanges and how cautious do we have to be? To answer thesequestions we have to understand the processes governingthe interaction between the atmosphere, the oceans, ice andliving organisms. Geochemist Wallace Broecker is the personwho has contributed most to our knowledge of this complexinteractive system.
His most pioneering contribution was his study of the global
carbon cycle. Previously the composition of seawater was
explained, for example, in terms of chemical equilibrium. A
good 35 years ago Broecker launched instead a flow model
based on the interaction of land, atmosphere and the oceans.
In doing so he has made a decisive contribution to our
understanding of the link between carbon dioxide levels in the
atmosphere and the chemistry of the oceans, for example how
much carbon dioxide they can receive and store.
The laureate has also played a crucial role in developing the
theory of large-scale ocean currents and matching it with the
interactive Earth System. He was 20-30 years ahead of his time
when, in the 1960s, he suggested that rapid climate changes
during the last glacial cycle were related to alterations in
global ocean circulation patterns.
Ocean currents distribute heat between latitudes and, when
they change, it has major effects on the climate, both locally
and globally. For example if warm surface water failed to reach
as far north in the North Atlantic as it does today, the climate
in Scandinavia could be similar to Alaska´s. Applied to the
current climate debate, paradoxically, rapid global warming
and increased rainfall could lead to a colder climate around the
Broecker participates actively in the on-going debate,
providing information about the interactive Earth System to
the general public, politicians and other decision makers. He
does not prophesy doom but urges caution: one of his similes
is a comparison of the complex climate system with a sleeping
dragon that we should not disturb.
Wallace S. Broecker, born 1931 (75) in Chicago, US citizen, PhD
in Geology 1958 from Columbia University. Newberry Professor
of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Lamont-Doherty Earth
Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA.
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The Prize-awarding ceremony will take place in Lund on 26 april 2007 in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen.
In 2007 the Crafoord Prize will celebrate its 25th anniversary, with jubilee symposia in Lund 23-26 April. Welcome to four days of plenary lectures, open discussions and symposia in all the Crafoord disciplines. More information at the menu Events.