Noted Climate-change Scientist Richard Alley to Speak Here Friday

One of the nation’s leading scientists in the field of climate change, Dr. Richard Alley of Pennsylvania State University, will discuss “Adventures of a Climate Scientist in the Age of Politics and Punditry” from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, in the auditorium of Brady Educational Center on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.

Dr. Richard Alley

The lecture is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by St. Thomas’ Environmental Science and Environmental Studies programs, and Geology Department. Other sponsors are the National Science Foundation and Passport to Knowledge/Geoff Haines-Stiles Productions Inc.

St. Thomas currently is observing “Sustainability Week”; it concludes Saturday with the annual fall cleanup of the banks of the Mississippi River near campus. See here for more information.

Alley is the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences and an associate of the Earth and Environmental System Institute at Pennsylvania State, where he has worked since 1988.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, his experience includes three field seasons in Antarctica, eight in Greenland and three in Alaska. His popular account of climate change and ice cores, The Two-Mile Time Machine, was chosen science book of the year by Phi Beta Kappa in 2001.

More recently he was host of the PBS series, “Earth: The Operator’s Manual,” and wrote its companion book. This year he won a $100,000 Heinz Family Foundation award for his work on the environment.

In its announcement, the foundation wrote this about Alley’s life and work:

“A longtime professor at The Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Richard Alley has been a game-changer in the global-warming arena. He revolutionized our understanding of the environment when he discovered that the last Ice Age came to an abrupt end in just three years, breaking open the field of ‘abrupt climate change.’

“Dr. Alley's revelation debunks the myth that all of climate change happens slowly and suggests that the impacts from human-induced activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, may happen more rapidly than we've come to expect.

“Dr. Alley and his team had removed two-mile-long polar ice-core samples in Greenland and in Antarctica to study climate history and elements that lead to environmental changes. He introduced the important concept that the Earth's climate contains ‘switches’ and ‘dials’ that are interconnected and dependent upon each other. His research found that some switches could be ‘flipped’ by the continued release of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

“The Alley Glacier in the West Antarctic was named in honor of his many scientific contributions.

“He has proven to be one of the most active and powerful communicators on climate science in America today. Recently he hosted the PBS special, 'Earth: The Operators' Manual' and wrote its companion book, both targeted to everyday Americans.

“Even nonscience majors flock to his classes on campus. Dr. Alley has won teaching awards for incorporating music and other creative strategies to bring climate science and ice physics to life for his students. His dedication to both the research of environmental change and to inspiring the next generation of scientists will have widespread implications for years to come.