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2007-01-18

The Crafoord Prize in Geosciences 2006

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Crafoord Prize in Geosciences for 2006 to Wallace S. Broecker, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA, “for his innovative and pioneering research on the operation of the global carbon cycle within the ocean - atmosphere - biosphere system, and its interaction with climate".

Climate change and “the great unplanned


carbon dioxide experiment"


Will today´s growing greenhouse effect lead to major climate
changes and how cautious do we have to be? To answer these
questions we have to understand the processes governing
the interaction between the atmosphere, the oceans, ice and
living organisms. Geochemist Wallace Broecker is the person
who has contributed most to our knowledge of this complex
interactive 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
North Atlantic.

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.
http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/

Contact persons:
- Malin Lindgren, Press Officer, tel. +46 86739522, +46 709886004, malin@kva.se
- Fredrik All, Information Officer, tel. +46 86739563, +46 706739563, fredrik@kva.se
- David Gee, Professor, Dept. for Geosciences, Uppsala University, tel. +46 704250185, david.gee@geo.uu.se
- Svante Björck, Professor, Lund University, GeoBiosphere Science Center, tel. +46  462227882, +46 703352494, svante.bjorck@geol.lu.se
- Leif Anderson, Professor, Dept. of Chemistry, Göteborg University, tel. +46 317722774, +46 709424311, leifand@chem.gu.se

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.

Jessica Balksjö Nannini
Press Officer,
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
jessica.balksjo@kva.se
tel: +46 8 673 95 44
+46 70 673 96 50

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