S.T. Lee Lecture 2018

Greenland ice cores tell tales of past sea-level contributions from Antarctica

A profile image of Prof Dorthe Dahl-Jensen.

Thursday 1 November 2018

Professor Dorthe Dahl-Jensen

An internationally respected and award-winning ice scientist at the Niels Bohr Institute, the University of Copenhagen.

Synopsis of lecture

The Greenland ice sheet is reacting to climate change and is losing progressively more mass every year. One of our challenges in the future is to adapt to rising sea level. Looking into the past provides knowledge on how ice sheets react to changing climate, and this can be used to improve future predictions of sea-level rise. The deep ice cores from Greenland contain information on past climate that goes back more than 130,000 years, telling tales about past abrupt climate and sea-level changes.

The last interglacial, 130,000 to 115,000 years before present, is a key analogue for future climate. At this time, climate was 5°C warmer over Greenland, and global sea level was 6-9 metres higher than present. All the ice cores from Greenland show that the ice sheets survived, making only a modest contributioin to global sea-level rise of approximately 2 metres at this time. These findings imply that Antarctica was a major contributor to sea-level rise during this past warm period, and may respond similarly in the future.

Dorthe Dahl-Jensen

Dorthe Dahl-Jensen is a Professor at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen. Professor Dahl-Jensen has participated in more than 25 field seasons on ice core drilling projects including leading several international deep drilling projects like the North Greenland Ice Core Project (NGRIP), North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling Project (NEEM) and the East Greenland Ice Core Project(EGRIP). In addition, she has led large research projects funded by the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF), European Research Council (ERC) and European Union (EU FP7). She is currently a member of the WCRP Climate and Cryosphere Project (ClicC) steering committee, and recently contributed to the 'Snow, Water, Ice, Permafrost in the Arctic' (SWIPA) reported by the Arctic Council. During her career, she has received a number of honours including the European Union Descartes Prize (2008) as part of the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica Project (EPICA), the VEGA Medal (2008) awarded by the King of Denmark for her climate-historical studies in the Arctic, a Knight of Dannebrog (2010), Knight of the Academic Palm Order (2013), and the EGU Agassi Medal (2014).