Claude Lorius – a Pioneer in Climate Science

Claude Lorius, a pioneering glaciologist, passed away on Tuesday morning at the age of 91. He was best known for his research into climate change, specifically his work in Antarctica which helped prove that humans were responsible for global warming.

Early Life and Career

Lorius was born in Besançon, France, in 1932. He was a curious and adventurous child, and his love for exploration would eventually lead him to become a renowned scientist. In 1956, just out of university, Lorius joined an expedition to Antarctica. This trip sparked his fascination with the continent and its mysteries.

The Discovery

It was during a 1965 expedition to Antarctica that Lorius made his most significant discovery. One evening, after drilling into the ice, he and his team enjoyed a glass of whiskey with ice cubes made from the ice samples they had just collected. As they watched the bubbles of air sparkling in their glasses, Lorius realized that the air bubbles were samples of the atmosphere trapped in the ice. This revelation led him to study ice cores, which act as frozen time capsules.

Research and Impact

Lorius’s research into air bubbles trapped in the ice was published in 1987. It showed that for long periods, levels of carbon dioxide varied slightly, but after the Industrial Revolution, concentrations of the greenhouse gas had skyrocketed as temperatures rose. His research brought him international renown and allowed scientists to look back over 160,000 years’ worth of glacial records. The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) said it left “no room for doubt” that global warming was due to man-made pollution.

Campaigner and Legacy

From then on, Lorius became a campaigner for climate action. In 1988, he was the inaugural expert of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In 2002, he was awarded the CNRS gold medal, along with his colleague Jean Jouzel.

Lorius’s impact on climate science cannot be overstated. His research into ice cores provided essential evidence of human-induced climate change, and his advocacy work helped raise awareness of the urgent need for action. He was a pioneer in his field and inspired countless scientists to continue the fight against climate change.




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