Lonnie Thompson (born July 1, 1948), 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 cores 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.
Lonnie Thompson (Lanyard) was born July 1, 1948 in Gassaway, West Virginia. He was raised on a farm near Gassaway, W.Va. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Marshall University, where he majored in geology. He subsequently attended The Ohio State University 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, such as the Quelccaya ice cap in the Andes of Peru, 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:
In his efforts to obtain ice cores, Thompson has spent an enormous amount of time at elevations above 5,500 meters. High-altitude climbers typically tackle a peak by spending time in a series of camps at lower elevations to acclimatize and then making a final rushed push for the summit. But Thompson and his loyal band of colleagues, students and mountain guides spend literally months at a time working at altitude...
Thompson and his colleagues have managed to drill into tropical glaciers with nothing more to rely on than a combination of modest funding, low-tech equipment, ingenuity and sheer muscle power. Because the thin air at high altitudes precludes the use of helicopters, all of the drilling equipment and supplies must be carried up and down the slopes by yaks, mules, horses or humans...— Mark Bowen, Thin Ice
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 magazine says that there is no person in the world who 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 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, by Al Gore, Jr., 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 and Time Magazine.
- 2002: Thompson was awarded the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
- 2002: Thompson was awarded the Vega Medal by the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography.
- 2005: Thompson was elected to the National Academy of Science.
- November, 2005: Thompson was featured in a "Rolling Stone" article, "The Ice Hunter".
- 2005: Thompson was awarded the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, an honor often regarded as the environmental science equivalent to the Nobel Prize.
- February, 2007: Mosley-Thompson and Thompson were jointly awarded the Roy Chapman Andrews Society Distinguished Explorer Award at Beloit College, Beloit, WI.
- May, 2007: Thompson is named to receive the National Medal of Science. 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).
- 2007: Thompson was awarded Seligman Crystal by the International Glaciological Society. 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 (Future category) with British researcher Geoffrey Eglinton.
- 2008: Thompson was listed as one of Time Magazine's Heroes of the Environment.
- 2012: Mosley-Thompson and Thompson were jointly awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth and Environmental Science from the Franklin Institute.
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:
- Thompson, L. G.; Mosley-Thompson, E.; Brecher, H.; Davis, M.; León, B.; Les, D.; Lin, P. -N.; Mashiotta, T.; Mountain, K. (2006). "Inaugural Article: Abrupt tropical climate change: Past and present". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 103 (28): 10536. Bibcode:2006PNAS..10310536T. doi:10.1073/pnas.0603900103.
- Tropical glacier and ice core evidence of climate change on annual to millennial time scales. L.G. Thompson, E. Mosley-Thompson, M.E. Davis, P.-N. Lin, K. Henderson, T.A. Mashiotta, 2003. Climatic Change 59, 137-155.
- Thompson, L. G.; Mosley-Thompson, E.; Davis, M. E.; Henderson, K. A.; Brecher, H. H.; Zagorodnov, V. S.; Mashiotta, T. A.; Lin, P. N.; Mikhalenko, V. N.; Hardy, D. R.; Beer, J. (2002). "Kilimanjaro Ice Core Records: Evidence of Holocene Climate Change in Tropical Africa" (PDF). Science. 298 (5593): 589–593. doi:10.1126/science.1073198. PMID 12386332.
- Thompson, L. G. (2000). "Ice core evidence for climate change in the Tropics: Implications for our future". Quaternary Science Reviews. 19: 19–18. doi:10.1016/S0277-3791(99)00052-9.
- Thompson, L. G.; Yao, T.; Davis, M. E.; Henderson, K. A.; Mosley-Thompson, E.; Lin, P. N.; Beer, J.; Synal, H. A.; Cole-Dai, J. (1997). "Tropical Climate Instability: The Last Glacial Cycle from a Qinghai-Tibetan Ice Core". Science. 276 (5320): 1821. doi:10.1126/science.276.5320.1821.
- "Byrd Polar Research Center Directory". 29 September 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
- Zagorski, N. (2006). "Profile of Lonnie G. Thompson". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 103 (31): 11437–11439. doi:10.1073/pnas.0605347103. PMC 1544187. PMID 16868075.
- Gillis, Justin (July 3, 2012). "A Climate Scientist Battles Time and Mortality". The New York Times. Retrieved July 3, 2012.
- "Lonnie Thompson to Receive National Medal of Science". Ohio State University, Research News. 2007. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
- Mark Bowen (2005). Thin Ice. Henry Holt and Co. p. 320. ISBN 0-8050-6443-5.
- "The Ice Hunter". Rolling Stone. 3 November 2005. Archived from the original on 30 April 2008. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
- "Lonnie Thompson CV (short)" (PDF). Retrieved 19 June 2010.
- "Heroes of the Environment". TIME. 24 September 2008. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
- "Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth and Environmental Science". Franklin Institute. 2012. Retrieved April 6, 2013.
- Ice Core Paleoclimatology Research Group, the Thompson's research group at OSU.
- Lonnie Thompson's web page at Byrd Polar
- Ellen Mosley-Thompson's web page at Byrd Polar
- Lonnie Thompson's Department of Geological Sciences faculty home page
- Ellen Mosley-Thompson's Department of Geography faculty home page
- "Rapid Climate Change in the Earth System: Past,Present,Future" 2002 Heineken Prize lecture by Prof. Thompson
- Lonnie Thompson, biography from the Encyclopedia of World Biography
- "Deciphering the ice: scientist drills into tropical glaciers for clues to Earth's climate changes" from CNN/Time.
- "Science Goes to New Heights", article about Thompson's research in The Antarctic Sun. June 27, 2008
- The Habitable Planet video
- Dan David Prize laureate 2008
- WOSU Public Media profiled the Thompson's polar research in 2008 in a two video segments distributed nationally.