Photo of Lonnie G. Thompson

Lonnie G. Thompson

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For his pioneering research in paleoclimatology analyzing isotopic and chemical fingerprints found in tropical ice cores from the world’s highest mountain glaciers and for his courage in collecting these disappearing climate archives that have transformed our understanding of the natural and anthropogenic factors influencing climate variability on our planet, past and present.

Lonnie Thompson shares what he wants people to understand about his work

Probing the mysteries of our climate is Lonnie Thompson’s passion. Thompson has trekked the globe in search of evidence – ice – to prove that the earth is warming.

His research has taken him to some of the highest, most hostile environments — from the Himalayas to the Andes to Kilimanjaro – where Thompson has extracted core samples that reveal a history of the earth’s changing climate.

Rolling Stone magazine, in a 2005 profile, said “Lonnie Thompson has spent more time above 18,000 feet than any other person on Earth.’’

The core samples have enabled Thompson to put together a record of the earth’s temperatures dating back hundreds of thousands of years. Along the way, Thompson has been involved in the development of lightweight, solar-powered drilling equipment to pull those core samples from the ice.

Thompson earned a doctorate in geological sciences from Ohio State University in 1976. He has led more than 60 research expeditions in the ensuing years and has held a number of teaching and research positions at the university. Since 2002 he has been senior research scientist at the university’s Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center.

By Robert Warrren