GLACIOLOGIST THOMPSON TO RECEIVE PRESTIGIOUS HEINEKEN AWARD
COLUMBUS, Ohio - An Ohio State researcher who has become famous for his work in using ice cores from drilled remote, mountaintop glaciers to unravel global climate histories for thousands of years is this year's winner of a prestigious international science prize.
Lonnie G. Thompson, professor of geological sciences and researcher with the Byrd Polar Research Center, will receive the 2002 Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences.
The prize, one of five awarded each year and given by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, comes with a cash award of $150,000. Thompson will receive his award in September during ceremonies in Amsterdam.
In announcing the award, the Academy cited Thompson's "pioneering work in research into ice cores in the polar regions and in the tropics," adding that the work "ultimately makes it possible to assess the effects of human beings on the earth's climate, something which has been a source of heated debate among researchers for many years."
"This is an extraordinary award, and one of the most important in a long line of recognitions that have come to Dr. Thompson and his colleagues in recent months which acknowledge the profound relevance this research has for the entire world," said Ed Ray, provost and executive vice president at Ohio State.
"This work sets an exceptionally high standard for research that is both grounded in basic research and of great significance, in a practical sense, in the lives of all peoples. We are immensely proud of what he and his team have accomplished."
Thompson has spent more than two decades drilling ice cores from mountaintop ice caps throughout at least seven countries and returning them to the university for analysis. Those cores contain stratigraphic records of climate that can extend back tens of thousands of years. Understanding the pattern of ancient climate can give us insight into the changes that are occurring throughout the world today.
Thompson shocked the public and scientific community alike last year when he announced that the analysis of ice cores from high mountain glaciers in Africa and Peru showed melting at an alarming rate - one that would lead to the loss of those ice fields within 15 years.
"This is exceptional research accomplished by exceptional scientists in extraordinary conditions," explained C. Bradley Moore, vice president for research at Ohio State.
"Lonnie's research group has grown from early struggles for acceptance within the glaciological community to becoming one of the premier scientific programs in the world investigating the questions surrounding global warming. We are immensely proud of what he and his colleagues have accomplished."
In the past year, Thompson was named as one of America's Best Scientists by Time Magazine and the Cable News Network, placing him in a prestigious group numbering less than two dozen.
Last month, he and his wife and research partner, Ellen Mosley-Thompson, a professor of geography at Ohio State were selected to receive the Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service for Science and Invention.
The award, one of five such awards given annually, carries with it a cash prize of $50,000 and other recipients included actress Julie Andrews and Fred Rogers, creator of the children's television program Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Previous award winners have included oceanographer Robert D. Ballard, heart surgeon Michael DeBakey, and J. Craig Venter, founder of Celera Genomics.
Thompson is preparing for his next expedition - his 45th - this time, to an ice cap high in the Alaskan wilderness to retrieve more cores for analysis. He and his research team will depart next week. [see story]