The Arctic thaw and abrupt climate changes
But this was not the only terrain first charted by Broecker. He pioneered the study of air-sea interaction back in the 1970s, focusing on the exchange of gases such as CO2. And he was also the first to explore how the ocean's absorption of atmospheric CO2 gives it a key role in global temperature regulation.
More recently, his research has paved the way for another major finding: the fact that the Earth's climate can change abruptly in very short periods, at times less than twenty years. Today's rapid thawing of the Arctic polar cap is a good example. The resulting increase in freshwater inflow to the oceans threatens to alter the main current, the thermohaline circulation, distributing heat across the planet. If this happens, it could cause a drastic upheaval in the global climate. But Broecker is not one for alarmism: "We are still unsure about the tipping points for these abrupt changes, so are in no position to make predictions".
Professor in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department of Columbia University (New York), Broecker has authored some 400 scientific papers and numerous books dealing with climate change. At the age of 77, he continues to engage in front-line research. His efforts are currently focused on "how the pattern of global precipitation will change as the planet warms", especially in the world's drylands. This means sifting through the climate records available from cold basin lakes and cave stalagmites.
More renewable energies, but also CO2 sequestration
The question is not if but how our planet will change. "Because chan
|Contact: Javier Fernandez|