Lonnie Thompson

Lonnie Thompson

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Lonnie Thompson is an American paleoclimatologist and Distinguished University Professor in the School of Earth Sciences at The Ohio State University. He has achieved global recognition for his drilling and analysis of ice core
Ice core
An ice core is a core sample that is typically removed from an ice sheet, most commonly from the polar ice caps of Antarctica, Greenland or from high mountain glaciers elsewhere. As the ice forms from the incremental build up of annual layers of snow, lower layers are older than upper, and an ice...

s from mountain glaciers and ice caps in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. He and his wife, Ellen Mosley-Thompson, run the ice core paleoclimatology research group at the Byrd Polar Research Center
Byrd Polar Research Center
Byrd Polar Research Center, sometimes abbreviated BPRC, is a polar and alpine research center at Ohio State University.- History :The Byrd Polar center at Ohio State University was established in 1960 as the Institute for Polar Studies. The name was changed to in 1987. Research foci were...



Lonnie Thompson was born July 1, 1948 in Huntington, West Virginia
Huntington, West Virginia
Huntington is a city in Cabell and Wayne counties in the U.S. state of West Virginia, along the Ohio River. Most of the city is in Cabell County, for which it is the county seat. A small portion of the city, mainly the neighborhood of Westmoreland, is in Wayne County. Its population was 49,138 at...

. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Marshall University
Marshall University
Marshall University is a coeducational public research university in Huntington, West Virginia, United States founded in 1837, and named after John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the United States....

, where he majored in geology. He subsequently attended The Ohio State University
Ohio State University
The Ohio State University, commonly referred to as Ohio State, is a public research university located in Columbus, Ohio. It was originally founded in 1870 as a land-grant university and is currently the third largest university campus in the United States...

 where he received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in geology. In the 1970s, he was the first scientist "to retrieve ice samples from a remote tropical ice cap and analyze them for ancient climate signals." He created the ice core research program at Ohio State while still a graduate student there. In regards to the dedication required to attain this ice, one author writes:
For comparison, the Everest lower base camp is at 5,380 m (17,700 ft) and the upper base camp is at 6,500 m (21,300 ft). (The mountain itself is 8,848 m (29,029 ft).) Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone is a US-based magazine devoted to music, liberal politics, and popular culture that is published every two weeks. Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and music critic Ralph J...

magazine says that there is no person in the world that has spent more time above 18,000 feet than Lonnie Thompson.

His observations of glacier retreat (1970s–2000s) "confirm that glaciers around the world are melting and provide clear evidence that the warming of the last 50 years is now outside the range of climate variability for several millennia, if not longer." In 2001, he predicted that the famed snows of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, is a dormant volcano in Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania and the highest mountain in Africa at above sea level .-Geology:...

 would melt within the next 20 years, a victim of climate change across the tropics. Return expeditions to the mountain have shown that changes in the mountain’s ice fields may signal an even quicker melting of its snow fields, which Thompson documented had existed for thousands of years. Thompson and his wife both served as advisers for the Academy Award-winning 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth
An Inconvenient Truth
An Inconvenient Truth is a 2006 documentary film directed by Davis Guggenheim about former United States Vice President Al Gore's campaign to educate citizens about global warming via a comprehensive slide show that, by his own estimate, he has given more than a thousand times.Premiering at the...

, by Al Gore, Jr.
Al Gore
Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, Jr. served as the 45th Vice President of the United States , under President Bill Clinton. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for President in the 2000 U.S. presidential election....

, and some of their work was referenced in the movie.

Honors and awards

  • 2001: Thompson was featured among eighteen scientists and researchers as "America's Best" by CNN
    Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

     and Time Magazine.
  • 2002: Thompson was awarded the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize
    Dr A.H. Heineken Prize
    The Dr. A.H. Heineken and Dr. H.P. Heineken Prizes, named in honor of Alfred Heineken, former Chairman of Heineken Holdings, and Henry Pierre Heineken, son of founder Gerard Adriaan Heineken, are a series of awards bestowed by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences .-History:Alfred...

     for Environmental Sciences by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
    Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
    The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences is an organisation dedicated to the advancement of science and literature in the Netherlands...

  • 2002: Thompson was awarded the Vega Medal by the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography
    Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography
    The Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography is a scientific learned society founded in Sweden in 1877...

  • 2005: Thompson was elected to the National Academy of Science.http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/newnas.htm
  • November, 2005: Thompson was featured in a "Rolling Stone
    Rolling Stone
    Rolling Stone is a US-based magazine devoted to music, liberal politics, and popular culture that is published every two weeks. Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and music critic Ralph J...

    " article, "The Ice Hunter".
  • 2005: Thompson was awarded the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement
    Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement
    The Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement is an award for environmental science, environmental health and energy. Tyler Laureates receive a $200,000 annual prize and a gold medallion...

    , an honor often regarded as the environmental science equivalent to the Nobel Prize
    Nobel Prize
    The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

    . http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/lonnityler.htm
  • February, 2007: Mosley-Thompson and Thompson were jointly awarded the Roy Chapman Andrews Society Distinguished Explorer Award at Beloit College
    Beloit College
    Beloit College is a liberal arts college in Beloit, Wisconsin, USA. It is a member of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, and has an enrollment of roughly 1,300 undergraduate students. Beloit is the oldest continuously operated college in Wisconsin, and has the oldest building of any college...

    , Beloit, WI.http://www.roychapmanandrewssociety.org/distinguish.html
  • May, 2007: Thompson is named to receive the National Medal of Science
    National Medal of Science
    The National Medal of Science is an honor bestowed by the President of the United States to individuals in science and engineering who have made important contributions to the advancement of knowledge in the fields of behavioral and social sciences, biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and...

    . http://www.nsf.gov/od/nms/2005nmslaureates_pressrelease.pdf This honor is the highest the United States can bestow upon an American scientist. It was presented to Thompson by President Bush in July 2007 (Award year 2005). http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/ltmdlsci.htm
  • 2007: Thompson was awarded Seligman Crystal
    Seligman Crystal
    The Seligman Crystal is an award of the International Glaciological Society.The prize is "awarded from time to time to one who has made an outstanding scientific contribution to glaciology so that the subject is now enriched"- Recipients :...

     by the International Glaciological Society
    International Glaciological Society
    The International Glaciological Society was founded in 1936 to provide a focus for individuals interested in glaciology, practical and scientific aspects of snow and ice. It was originally known as the 'Association for the Study of Snow and Ice'. The name was changed to the 'British Glaciological...

    . The Crystal is considered to be one of the highest awards in glaciology.
  • 2008: Mosley-Thompson and Thompson share the $1 million Dan David Prize
    Dan David Prize
    The Dan David Prize annually awards 3 prizes of $1 million each awarded by the Dan David Foundation and Tel Aviv University to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution in the fields of science, technology, culture or social welfare. There are three prize categories - past, present and...

     (Future category) with British researcher Geoffrey Eglinton
    Geoffrey Eglinton
    Geoffrey Eglinton, FRS is a British chemist and Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Fellow in Earth Sciences at Bristol University....

  • 2008: Thompson was listed as one of Time Magazine's Heroes of the Environment
    Heroes of the Environment (2008)
    Heroes of the Environment is a list published in Time magazine. After the inaugural list of 2007, the next list was published in September 2008...



Lonnie Thompson has been awarded 53 research grants from the NSF, NASA, NOAA and NGS and has published 165 papers. An abbreviated list of expeditions, grants, and publications can be found in his Ohio State curriculum vitae (PDF).

Some notable publications include:

External links