NBA History of Science Seminar

Matthias Dörries, "Nature experiments: Volcanic eruptions and climate change."

I discuss the relation between volcanology and climate change science from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Matthias Dörries, Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg

From the 1970s, this interdisciplinary field drew upon a wide range of disciplines and experimental practices, including new instruments (LIDAR, satellites), new techniques (new proxy indicators in historical climatology such as ice and sea cores, computer modeling), new theories (the chemical mechanisms in the atmosphere and General Circulation Models), and experiments in the field.

The latter impose crucial limits, as they depend entirely on nature's arbitrary schedule for large explosive volcanic eruptions (a constraint that forces geoscientists to do more historical work than they would like).

A primary impetus to this research field with its focus on global phenomena was funding motivated by rising environmental and political concerns for the earth as a whole.