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Lonnie Thompson Time-CNN

August 13, 2001 Contact: Lonnie Thompson (614) 292-6531

Time Magazine, CNN name OSU geologist one of "America's Best"

  COLUMBUS -- An Ohio State University geologist who earlier this year predicted that within 15 years, massive mountainous ice caps and glaciers around the world would melt because of global warming has been named one of America's best scientists by Time magazine and the Cable News Network.

Lonnie Thompson, a professor of geological sciences, was one of five U.S. scientists and physicians honored this week by the national television news media as being tops in their field. The television network announced the honor during the hour-long documentary "CNN Presents: America's Best" on Sunday night. Time is featuring Thompson in the current issue of the magazine.

Thompson was one of five researchers portrayed by CNN. Others included Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Patricia Goldman-Rakic, professor of neurobiology at Yale University Medical School; Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; and Andrew Knoll, a professor of biology at Harvard University. Time's coverage included these five, as well as 13 other researchers.

Thompson astonished global climate change experts in February when he reported that glaciers and ice caps in Africa and Peru that had stood solid for centuries are melting at an ever-increasing rate. He predicted the loss of these massive ice fields within the next 15 years because of an increase in global warming. Moreover, he warned that it may be too late to save the glaciers.

Thompson's report at the American Association for the Advancement of Science said that at least one-third of the massive ice field atop Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa has disappeared, or melted, in the last dozen years and more than four-fifths of the ice field has been lost since 1912, when it was first mapped. Also, Peru's Quelccaya ice cap in the southern mountains has shrunk by at least 20 percent since 1963.

"These glaciers are very much like the canaries once used in coal mines," Thompson said. "They're an indicator of massive changes taking place and a response to the changes in climate in the tropics."

Thompson, his wife and research partner Ellen Mosley-Thompson, a professor of geography at Ohio State, and colleagues at the university's Byrd Polar Research Center have spent the last quarter-century trekking to some of the most remote ice fields in the world, drilling through them to the bedrock, and bringing the ice cores back to Ohio State for analysis.

The Thompsons have argued for more than two decades that the first real indisputable signs of global warming will appear at these remote tropical ice caps. "Seventy percent of the population of the planet live in the tropics between 30 degrees N and 30 degrees S," he explained, "Eighty percent of the new people added to the planet within the next century will live within that region, where only 20 percent of the world's agriculture occurs."

"Changes in this region will have a massive effect on humanity."

Thompson has led more than 40 expeditions to sites on five continents to retrieve ice cores that measure hundreds of meters long, cores that contain thousands of years of records of past climate in the region. The oldest cores they have analyzed date back more than 700,000 years and contain records of numerous global ice ages.

Earlier this year, he was named a fellow in the American Geophysical Union, an honor given to less than one percent of scientists in their field. He also was selected for a Distinguished Scholar award at Ohio State, the highest honor the university bestows on its working scientists.

"Lonnie Thompson exemplifies the best of Ohio State's researchers," explained Brad Moore, vice president for research. "The work he and his colleagues have accomplished has serious implications for every person on the planet.

"His dedication to this research - especially in the face of many colleagues' claims that such work could never be done - and his personal courage in obtaining these climate records is an inspiration to scientists everywhere."

"It is appropriate and wonderful that Time and CNN selected him as one of America's best scientists," Moore said.


Contact: Lonnie Thompson, (614) 292-6531, Thompson.3@osu.edu

Written by Earle Holland, (614) 292-8384, Holland.8@osu.edu