4 thinkers and the evolution of climate science

Key scientists helped form our understanding of climate science.
Key scientists helped form our understanding of climate science.
Scientists recently confirmed what most of us had already guessed: The past decade was the hottest on record.

        Not only that, 2019 was the second warmest on record since modern record-keeping began in 1880, according to NASA
        Environmental activists used the occasion to underscore that human activities are contributing to the planet’s changing climate. For years, scientists have been raising alarms about global warming. The realization that the climate was changing – and that the phenomenon was connected to human activity – grew from the work of several scientists over time. Here are four key players during the 20th century, along with links and sources for further study:

Glenn Thomas Trewartha (1896-1984): In 1937, Trewartha, assistant professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin, coined the term greenhouse effect in the textbook, An Introduction to Weather and Climate. Trewartha explained that "the atmosphere was like ‘a pane of glass’ in a greenhouse... thus maintaining surface temperatures considerably higher than they otherwise would be," recounts NPR online.

Guy Stewart Callendar (1898-1964): A steam engineer and amateur scientist, Callendar conducted groundbreaking research on global warming that first appeared in the quarterly journal of the United Kingdom's Royal Meteorological Society in 1938, according to the BBC.com. Callendar collected measurements of the Earth’s temperature and theorized that the planet’s warming was due to carbon dioxide emissions. He was right, but his work went unnoticed at the time, the article reports.

Roger Revelle (1909-1991):  An oceanographer, Revelle is described as “one of the pioneering researchers in the study of the human influence on the atmosphere, carbon cycle and climate,” on the New York Times website.  
    Revelle served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. When he returned to civilian life, he distinguished himself at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. During the 1950s, scientists at the lab, led by Charles David Keeling, were part of a program that measured atmospheric carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, and Antarctica, NASA recounts.   
    In 1957, Revelle and another noted scientist, Hans Suess, “demonstrated that carbon dioxide had increased in the air as a result of the use of fossil fuels in a famous article published in Tellus, a European meteorology and oceanography journal,” according to NASA.
     Long before others, Revelle was writing and lecturing about climate change. During a lecture in 1980, he remarked, “Decisive action must be taken in the next two or three decades if profound climatic changes 50 to 70 years into future are to be avoided.”
     It’s worth noting that in the 1960s, Revelle, then a professor at Harvard, taught a student who would later became one of the world’s most well-known climate activists, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

Charles David Keeling (1928-2005): Keeling, while working at the  Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, developed an accurate system for measuring carbon dioxide concentration, according to the university’s website.
     Keeling analyzed air samples collected in forests and other rural settings and is credited with presenting the first evidence linking carbon dioxide produced by automobiles and factories to negative effects on the climate. He began measuring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 1958 at a weather station on Mauna Loa, a dormant volcano in Hawaii, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
     In nearly five decades that followed, he mapped out the increase of carbon dioxide levels.



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