A scientist who & # 39; greenhouse effect & # 39; A household term made while he fought to popularize the view that greenhouse gases can lead to dramatic climate change has died at the age of 87.
Wallace Smith Broecker, professor and researcher at Columbia University, was described by his colleagues as "unique, brilliant and combative" as tributes for the climate expert.
The world-renowned professor, known in science as the "Grandfather of Climate Science", died Monday night in a hospital in New York City, a spokesman confirmed by his employer.
Professor Broecker brought global warming & # 39; in common use with an article from 1975 that correctly predicted that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would lead to pronounced temperature rises.
Later he became the first person to recognize what he called the ocean conveyor belt, a worldwide network of currents that affect everything from air temperature to rain patterns.
"Wally was unique, brilliant and combative," said Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer. "He was not fooled by the cooling of the 1970s. He clearly saw the unprecedented warming now playing out and made his views clear, even when few were willing to listen."
In the ocean conveyor belt, cold, salt water sinks in the North Atlantic as a plunger to drive an ocean current from North America to Europe. Hot surface water carried by this current helps to keep the climate in Europe mild.
Otherwise, Professor Broecker would say that Europe would be in the freezer, with average winter temperatures dropping by 11C (20F) or more, and London more like Spitsbergen, Norway, which is 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
Professor Broecker said his studies suggested that the conveyor belt is the "Achilles heel of the climate system" and a fragile phenomenon that can change rapidly for reasons that are not understood.
It would only require a slight increase in temperature to prevent water from sinking in the North Atlantic, he said, and that would bring the conveyor belt to a standstill.
He said that it is possible that warming caused by the build-up of greenhouse gases would be sufficient to dramatically influence ocean currents.
"Broecker popularized the idea that this could lead to a drastic change in climate change and, more broadly, Broecker helped inform the public and policy makers about the potential for abrupt climate changes and unwanted" surprises " due to the climate change, "said Penn State professor Michael Mann.
"We live in a climate system that can jump abruptly from one state to another," Professor Broecker told the Associated Press in 1997.
By dumping large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels, "we are conducting an experiment that could have devastating consequences".
"We play with an angry animal – a climate system that has been shown to be very sensitive," he said.
Prof Broecker received the National Medal of Science in 1996 and was a member of the National Academy of Science.
He also served as a stint as research coordinator for Biosphere 2, an experimental living environment that became a research laboratory.
Prof Broecker was born in Chicago in 1931 and grew up in the Oak Park in a suburb.
He joined Columbia's faculty in 1959, where he spent most of his time in the University's laboratory in Palisades, New York.
He was known in scientific circles as the "Grandfather of Climate Science" and the "Dean of Climate Scientists".
"His discoveries were fundamental to interpreting Earth's climate history," said Prof. Oppenheimer.
"No scientist was more stimulating to deal with, he was an instigator in a good way, willing to introduce unpopular ideas, such as excuse to compensate for climate change, but it was always a two-way conversation, never boring, always educational I will miss him. "