Lonnie and Ellen Thompson – 2007
Ellen Mosley-Thompson and Lonnie Thompson, world-renowned climate researchers, shared the fifth Roy Chapman Andrews Society Distinguished Explorer Award in a ceremony in Beloit, Wisconsin, hometown of the award’s namesake. The 2007 award was the first to tap a woman explorer, and the first to be presented to two individuals.
Mosley-Thompson and Thompson, a wife-husband team, go to extremes to collect ice cores from some of the world’s most remote and challenging landscapes. These cores provide a detailed record of the climatic and environmental histories of Earth and help assess natural and human contributions to recent–and future–climate change.
Famed explorer Roy Chapman Andrews said there is adventure around every corner–and the world is still full of corners. The 2007 Andrews awardees have explored quite literally the four “corners” of our planet. Mosley-Thompson specializes in the polar regions (both Arctic and Antarctic) while Thompson scours temperate and equatorial mountains in his quest for icy records. The team has built up a “frozen history of the Earth,” which they store at Ohio State University, home base for their research. This library of the Earth’s climate has helped the duo document the environmental connections between the low and high latitudes, yielding new information on how human activities may modify those connections.
The team has extracted ice cores from some of the most inhospitable places on the planet, using both high-tech equipment and remarkably modest means. Mosley-Thompson uses specialized drilling equipment to probe Antarctic glaciers, whereas Thompson has retrieved samples from Kilimanjaro using a hot-air balloon and from the highlands of Tibet using yaks. In 1992, Thompson crossed the Gobi of Mongolia, terrain once frequented by the namesake of the Andrews award. During his trip Thompson hauled ice cores across the desert using ancient trucks; when the vehicles broke down, he used ice cream to cool his precious samples. Even when technology performs flawlessly, an added sense of urgency accompanies Thompson’s work: many of the prime icy records of climate in the equatorial mountains are vanishing at an alarming pace due to global warming.
Both explorers are well published in the scientific literature, but they also appreciate the importance of educating the pubic about current and future climate change and the effect of that change on our lives. Works of popular science (such as Thin Ice, by Mark Bowen, 2005) have helped publicize their research. In addition, Thompson entered the headlines in recent years when he called attention to the shrinking ice cap atop an African peak immortalized by Ernest Hemingway. Thompson predicted that the famed “snows of Kilimanjaro” will vanish by 2020.
The Roy Chapman Andrews Society’s 2007 Distinguished Explorer Award was presented on Friday, February 23 at Beloit College, Andrews’ alma mater. During the 1920s the Beloit-born explorer earned international fame for leading a series of expeditions to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China. In one of the world’s first motorized expeditions, his team of explorers brought from the desert the first nests of dinosaur eggs, new species of dinosaurs and ice age mammals, and the first evidence that dinosaurs coexisted with small mammals.
The Thompsons presented an illustrated acceptance lecture as part of the 2007 award ceremony and visited with area school children and college students.
He is also a Research Scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center.
He holds a M.S. and Ph.D in Geological Sciences from The Ohio State University
Thompson received a B.S. in Geology from Marshall University
She is a Research Scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center
Mosley-Thompson holds a M.A. and Ph.D in Geography: Climatology from The Ohio State University
She received her B.S. in Physics from Marshall University