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Ice cores and interglacials

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Abstract:

The polar ice sheets hold one of Earth’s great sedimentary records. By drilling ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica, we can obtain information about climate and numerous other environmental parameters over 800,000 years in Antarctica and over 120,000 years in Greenland. In this talk, I will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of ice cores, demonstrate how ice cores are collected and present some highlights of recent ice core research, concentrating on the periods in the record that are as warm or warmer than the present. Then, I will explain how we are working to discover what happened to the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheet at a time when sea level appears to have been elevated. Finally, I will discuss the interglacial we are currently in and its extended future in the light of anthropogenic climate change.

Speaker profile:

Eric Wolff is a Royal Society Research Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University. His main research goal is to understand the causes of climate evolution over recent glacial cycles. 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, where he is an Honorary Fellow. He chaired the science committee of the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) and the Royal Society’s Global Environmental Research Committee until 2018, 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.

This talk is part of the SciSoc – Cambridge University Scientific Society series.

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