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Wallace Broecker, the geochemist who popularized the phrase "global warming," died Monday at 87 years old. His research has changed our understanding of the oceans and our way of thinking and talking about climate change.
"The climate system is an angry beast and we put it to the drumstick," he said about 20 years ago.
Its flagship 1975 document entitled "Climate Change: Are We on the brink of a pronounced global warming?" Was one of the first to use the term "global warming". predicts the rise in global average temperature over the next 35 years with astounding precision.
Broecker, who has written about 17 books and 500 research papers during his career at Columbia University, has conducted groundbreaking research on the "Ocean Treadmill", a set of currents that circulate water around the world. and regulate the heat. He suggested that it was the "Achilles heel of the climate system" because even a slight rise in temperature could break it.
Never seen the movie Two days later, where global warming is wreaking havoc with this treadmill, a tidal surge is overtaking Manhattan and much of the northern hemisphere is turning into ice? It's based on Broecker's ideas – even if it's true, it's a wild exaggeration.
After Broecker credited "global warming" in 1975, he offered $ 200 to any student who could find an earlier quote. A postgraduate student found it in an editorial published in 1957 in the Hammond Times of Indiana. Alas, the term is a little older than that: the Oxford English Dictionary traces its use in a 1952 San Antonio Express article.
In any case, "global warming" was certainly more damaging than the "inadvertent climate change," an awkward expression used by Broecker's contemporaries in the 1970s. So, global warming was. The use became widespread in the late 1980s, when NASA climate scientist James Hansen warned Congress of the risks of an increase in greenhouse gases.
Broecker "warned that he would turn over in his grave if someone put a" global warming "on his gravestone," according to an article from the Columbia Earth Institute. Instead, he wanted to be cremated and his ashes scattered in the ocean where he spent his life studying.