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The Hot Seat

Department of Earth Sciences and Sierra Club host lecture series on global warming

In a lecture series co-sponsored by the Department of Earth Sciences and the Sierra Club of the Upper Valley, experts from a variety of disciplines will speak on the topic of climate change and global warming. Held in Steele Hall, the lectures are free and open to the public. Denis Rydjeski of the Sierra Club says that while just two lectures have been scheduled so far, a third and a fourth are in the works.

Jackie Richter-menge
Jackie Richter-Menge

The first lecture, held on February 22, was given by Visiting Professor of Earth Sciences Eric Posmentier on "A Climatologist's View of Climate Change: Facts and Fallacies." The second, scheduled for April 12, will be given by Jackie Richter-Menge of the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) in Hanover.

Richter's research focuses on Arctic sea ice cover and how changes in the Arctic impact future climate-related scenarios in the rest of the world. Her presentation, "A Polar Bear's Perspective on Climate Change," is scheduled for Wednesday, April 12 at 4 p.m. in Steele 007.

In his talk last month, Posmentier addressed some of the most fundamental questions about global warming and climate change, covering the evidence both for and against man-made climate change and the effects of greenhouse gases. He explained the current limitations of climatology—such as understanding the physics of the formation of clouds—and discussed the need for better predictive models. Ultimately, said Posmentier, despite the many contradictions and unknowns in his field, he comes down on the side of global warming due, at least in part, to man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The nightmare scenario, he added, would be an abrupt climate change, triggered by greenhouse gas emissions that could plunge the planet into another ice age or cause the sea level to rise. "My lecture explored the possibilities dramatized in the apocalyptic action film The Day After Tomorrow. The time scale of a few days or hours was impossible, but the possibilities were real," he says.

Image of Arctic ice shrinkage 1979
These images from Eric Posmentier's February 22 presentation on global climate change illustrate the shrinkage of Artic ice between 1979 (left) and 2005 (below). The images were created using data from the Defense Meteorlogical Satellite Program's Special Scanning Microwave Imager.

Image of Arctic ice shrinkage 2005

Rydjeski stresses that the lecture series is designed for a general audience. Although the speakers are scientists with recognized expertise in the subject matter, the presentations are accessible. "There is a lot of interest in this topic and in a recent Sierra Club conference, energy issues and global warming emerged as the top issues," he says.

The series' co-sponsors hope to hold a lecture every other month. Future topics may include the effects and ramifications of climate change in New England and the socioeconomic impact of climate change. For more information about the lecture series, contact Denis Rydjeski at Denis.R.Rydjeski@Dartmouth.EDU or call (802) 885-4826.

By GENEVIEVE HAAS

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Last Updated: 12/17/08