January 2009 Issue
Ohioan - Lonnie Thompson
AGE: Turned 60 last July at 20,000 feet in the Andes Mountains of South America.
PERSONAL: He and his wife and colleague, Ellen, have one daughter, Regina.
OCCUPATION: Paleoclimatologist at The Ohio State University’s Byrd Polar Research Center and professor of environmental geology and paleoclimatology at OSU.
TRANSLATION: Thompson studies the history of Earth’s climate as it is recorded in ice. His work takes him to some of the highest mountaintops in the tropics to drill ice cores (such as the one pictured above), which are brought to OSU’s Byrd Center, the only tropical archive on Earth.
FIELD WORK: “I’ve been on 54 expeditions, in 15 different countries,” Thompson says. “The longest lasted three months.” Six tons of equipment goes to the drill site, and about 10 tons of ice cores comes back.
DISCOVERIES: Thompson and his team were the first to successfully dig up ice cores in the tropics. His work has served as a learning tool in “An Inconvenient Truth” (Al Gore’s documentary) and National Geographic magazine, and on the History Channel. Time magazine named Thompson a hero of the environment in 2008.
LOOKING FORWARD TO: In March, Thompson will drill in New Guinea, revisit two sites in Peru and, for the first time, he and his wife will be in the field together as they drill in the Antarctic Peninsula.