Lonnie Thompson and Ellen Mosley-Thompson made history by digging into Earth's distant past to illuminate future climate change. Now they've received one of the oldest and most prestigious science awards in the world: the Benjamin Franklin Medal.
The two--he, a distinguished university professor of earth sciences, and she, a distinguished university professor of geography and director of the Byrd Polar Research Center--received the Franklin Institute’s award for Earth and Environmental Science on April 26 in Philadelphia.
In presenting the award, the institute cited their "contributions to our understanding of the Earth’s climate history from the chemical and physical properties of ice cores, which have demonstrated the important role of the low latitudes in global climate change and earth system dynamics."
For more than 30 years, Thompson and Mosley-Thompson have drilled core samples from glaciers on the most remote areas of the planet.
Such ice cores contain thousands of years of accumulated snow and sediment, and by measuring the amounts of certain chemicals in the layers, researchers can gauge what Earth's climate was like in the past. Their research has revealed that our planet is warming, largely due to human activity--specifically, the burning of fossil fuels.
For those accomplishments, the Franklin Institute has enshrined Thompson and Mosely-Thompson's names with those of the world's most prominent scientists, such as Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Jane Goodall, and Jacques Cousteau.