SFU Canada Research Chairs Seminar Series: "The Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide through the Ice Ages"

Thursday, March 10, 2011
11:30 - 12:30

Dr. Karen E. Kohfeld
Canada Research Chair in Climate, Resource, and Global Change, School of Resource and Environmental Management


Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased by about 37% since pre-industrial times due to human activities, and they are projected to continue rising. One great challenge we face is understanding the impacts of these dramatic changes on the earth and climate system. How can we be sure that we understand how the global carbon cycle and its relationship with climate may change in the future? One way of approaching this question is to study past changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Antarctic ice core records show us that atmospheric carbon dioxide actually decreased by 33% relative to pre-industrial times during the last ice age, a pattern repeated every 100,000 years for at least the 800,000 years. Yet the exact causes of these rhythmic changes remain somewhat of a mystery. This presentation will explore some of the leading hypotheses put forth to explain the ice age CO2 mystery.

About the Speaker

After completing her Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1998, Karen Kohfeld was a researcher at Lund University (Sweden) and then the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (Germany) before joining the School of Resource and Environmental Management at SFU in 2006. She is interested in understanding natural variability within the ocean and climate system, in order to better understand how the earth system responds to anthropogenic perturbations. Her research focuses on biogeochemical linkages between carbon, dust, and climate.