Penn State scientists elected to American Geophysical Union

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Michael Mann and David Pollard, both scientists in Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, have been elected as Fellows of the American Geophysical Union for exceptional contributions in original research in climate change.

Election as an AGU Fellow is one of the highest honors for scientists in Earth and space sciences. No more than 0.1 percent of AGU's 60,000-plus members is elected annually as Fellows. Only 61 scientists will receive the honor this year.

Mann, professor of meteorology and geosciences and director of the University's Earth System Science Center, is best known for using theoretical climate-system models and analyzing observational climate records to advance understanding of the Earth's climate and the changes -- both those naturally occurring and human-forced -- that have occurred over time.

In the late 1990s, Mann with colleagues published the "hockey stick" graph of Northern Hemisphere temperatures over the past millennium. Based upon so-called "proxy" climate records such as ice cores, tree rings and corals, the graph demonstrates significant global warming in the last century. The graph, which has become a lightning rod for climate-change deniers, and the ensuing controversy are the subject of Mann's soon-to-be-released book, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches From the Front Lines."

Mann was lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Scientific Assessment Report and was among the scientists who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for that report. More recently, he was awarded the Hans Oeschger Medal of the European Geosciences Union in recognition of his climate-related work.

The author of more than 140 peer-reviewed and edited publications, Mann is co-author with Penn State Geoscientist Lee Kump of "Dire Predictions, Understanding Global Warming: The Illustrated Guide to the Findings of the IPCC."

Mann received his undergraduate degrees in physics and applied math from the University of California at Berkeley, a master's degree in physics and a doctorate in geology and geophysics from Yale University. He joined Penn State in 2005.

Pollard, senior scientist, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, works with global climate models and ice-sheet models to both investigate the physical processes that have shaped Earth's climate over geologic time and project the future of the Earth's system. By coupling and applying these models in innovative ways, Pollard has developed several new modeling techniques.

One of these has allowed floating ice shelves to be integrated efficiently and realistically into ice-sheet models. With these, Pollard has been able to create simulations of the advance and retreat of the grounding line -- where floating ice shelves and grounded ice meet -- of the fragile and vulnerable West Antarctic ice sheet, much of which rests on bedrock far below sea level. Melting of the great polar ice sheets will result in global sea-level rise.

Using this model, Pollard and Robert DeConto, a colleague at the University of Massachusetts, have simulated the past 5 million years of West Antarctic ice sheet variations. The results indicate the West Antarctic ice sheet has collapsed and re-grown multiple times, a conclusion confirmed by data from sediment cores drilled by the AntarcticGeological Drilling project.

The model also extends the reach of the core data to a wider geographical context and not just the spot drilled.

Pollard is currently applying the model to the future to assess the danger of West Antarctic ice sheet collapse in the next few centuries or millennium due to anthropogenic climate warming.

As an associate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the early 1990s, Pollard was one of the main developers of the Genesis Global Climate Model, which has been widely used for studies of paleoclimate.

Pollard's research has been reported in more than 130 authored or co-authored publications in peer-reviewed literature.

Pollard, who came to Penn State in 1997, received his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Cambridge University, a master's degree in aeronautics and a doctorate in planetary science from California Institute of Technology.

Mann and Pollard will be recognized during an Honors Ceremony at the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting held Dec. 6-10, in San Francisco.

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Last Updated February 13, 2012