Alley recognized for research and outreach efforts on climate change
Posted September 23, 2011
The Heinz Awards , now in their 17th year, annually recognize individuals creating and implementing workable solutions to the problems the world faces through invention, research and education while inspiring the next generation of modern thinkers.
This year’s awards focused on the environment, but the nine winners were also chosen based on their related contributions to the other award categories recognized in many previous years, including arts and humanities, public policy, technology and the economy.
Alley’s discovery that the last Ice Age came to an abrupt end over a period of only three years broke open the field of abrupt climate change. This debunked the myth that climate change is a slow process and suggests that some climate changes in response to human-induced activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, may arrive more rapidly than expected.
“Dr. Alley’s research on ice cores has provided an essential cornerstone to the study of environmental change,” Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation, said in a press release from Penn State. “He discovered that such changes can be abrupt and massive, and he is able to communicate these complex ideas in a clear and compelling way.”
Alley has received more than 30 grants as a principal investigator or co-PI from the National Science Foundation since 1986. Current grants include an award to study the physical properties of an ice core retrieved from West Antarctica over the last several years. [See previous article: Deep core complete.]
The Penn State scientist regularly testifies before congressional committees and policymakers on climate change. He has been a lead and contributing author on several reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change , including the 2007 report, which received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Alley is active in communicating earth sciences to the general public. Earlier this year, he hosted a PBS special on climate change and sustainable energy called “Earth: The Operators’ Manual” and authored a companion book of the same name. The NSF also supported that project with a grant.
“Climate change is an enormous challenge that requires big action,” Alley said. “Our grandchildren will one day ask us to explain the choices our leaders made today.”
NSF-funded research in this article: Richard Alley, Penn State, Award Nos. 1043528 (with Don Voigt) and 0539578 (with Don Voigt and David Reusch); and Geoffrey Haines-Stiles, Richard Alley and Erna Akuginow, Geoffrey Haines-Stiles Productions, Award No. 0917564 .
See previous interview with Richard Alley: It's just physics.