UMass Amherst Climatologist to Speak at National Forum Regarding Global Warming

AMHERST, Mass. - Michael Mann, of the University of Massachusetts geosciences department, is scheduled to participate in a high-profile forum next week in Washington D.C., exploring the relationship between global climate change and its possible impacts on society and the environment. The event, sponsored by the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program, is scheduled for Mon. July 20, from 3:15-4:45 p.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Bldg., Room G11. Mark Meier of the University of Colorado, Boulder, will also speak. The seminars are generally attended by congressional representatives and members of the media.

Mann, along with geosciences department head Raymond Bradley, authored a study earlier this year showing that three recent years - 1990, 1993, and 1997 - were the warmest on record since at least AD 1400. The study also showed that global warming is attributable in great part to human activity. It is known that industrialization during the past century has increased levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere by more than 25 percent over its pre-industrial level, Mann said.

Weather instruments were introduced only in the mid-1800s, so to go back several centuries in time, Mann and colleagues relied in their study on the small number of very long historical records, along with annually recorded natural archives that chronicle climate variations, such as the density and width of tree rings, samples of centuries-old layered ice, and corals, which incorporate chemicals into their skeletons depending on water temperature and salinity, both of which are affected by climate.

Mann’s discussion of global warming will provide a context for comments by Meier on the 20th century’s unprecedented glacier recession and thinning. Meier says this is a cause for concern for several reasons, since glaciers are thought to be sensitive indicators of climate, and provide a tangible example of the impact of climate warming to date. Scientists are also concerned that glacial melting is destroying many of the paleoclimate records housed in glacial ice, Meier says.

Mann has a joint appointment as an Alexander Holleander Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow of the Department of Energy and as an adjunct associate professor of geosciences at UMass.