It’s a pleasure to be here today. I’ll be heading back to Antarctica for my fifteenth expedition and I’ll never forget my first expedition to Antarctica because that was when I first decided that scuba diving in water that was freezing was worth it if you saw the kind of things that I was seeing under that ocean. There we go. Okay, so Antarctica, how did I fall in love with Antarctica? Well, it would’ve been in 1982 when I made my first trip and besides the scenery being stunning, I remember dropping through eight feet of sea ice. A little bit claustrophobic as you go down through the ice hole but when you come out below the ice in Antarctica, believe it or not, you can see 1000 feet underwater. This is the clearest water in the world that you could possibly dive in and what struck me more than the clarity was the beautiful, dense assemblage of marine life on the sea floor.
There were sponges and soft corals and starfish and sea urchins. The list went on and on and on. How were these animals adapted to living in this very cold, remote place? How did they reproduce? What did they feed on? How did they defend themselves from predators? There were so many unanswered questions; it was almost like being in a candy store for a scientist and I got very excited in this and I was very fortunate to work, for many years, at McMurdo station which is the largest U.S. station in Antarctica and then to later move over to Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. Now, I have to tell you that Palmer Station is one of the most beautiful places that you will ever visit. It’s on this gorgeous coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, it’s nestled below a beautiful glacier and it’s home to 44 of us. When we go and work at Palmer Station, there are only 44 beds and about half of them are filled with scientists and the other half are filled with science support people. So there’s a medical doctor, there’s cooks, there’s carpenters and plumbers, there’s people that operate the boats and then this group of scientists that are largely doing marine biological studies.
So I went to Palmer Station 15 years ago and one of the things I immediately began to notice over the years at Palmer Station was things are changing; they’re changing very, very rapidly because polar ecosystems tend to be very, very sensitive to change, they’re the barometers of global change and certainly, Antarctica is no exception. So that’s what I want to talk about with you today, to tell you this story and if you look at this, this is right out of National Geographic magazine and you can see that in 2006, the orange areas of the earth that depict warming were largely centered on the Arctic but if you look down at Antarctica down here, the region where I’m working and living down here at Palmer Station, even in 2006, was definitely on the radar but look at the cover of Nature magazine in 2009. This is one of the most prestigious science journals in the world and between satellite and ground station temperature data, we know that it’s not just the peninsula that’s warming quickly now but also this western portion of the continent.
And even over on the east side of Antarctica, there’s now information that the ice shelves, these big, thick layers of ice that are attached to the continent are beginning to melt, even over here on the eastern side. So it’s not quite as warm as over here and on the peninsula but even the eastern part of Antarctica’s beginning to show some signs of warming. So how much warming are we talking about? Well, fortunately, 20 miles from where I work, here’s my home right here, Palmer Station on this little island, Anvers Island, you get there by leaving the tip of Argentina and going across the Drake passage and arriving here at the station. A little station just down the coast from us has been taking mid-winter air temperatures for 60 years and if you look at that compilation of data, you can see an increase of about 10 degrees Fahrenheit in 60 years; 10 degree Fahrenheit, that is a very, very large number for warming in a particular region. So what’s the effect? Well, I can tell you that 15 years ago, about once a week, I would hear a huge crashing sound, I would leap up from my computer, I’d run down the hall with all my other friends, we’d open the door and watch big waves come down the bay from the glacier that had calved behind the station.
It was very exciting. Now when I go to Palmer Station, this is happening almost every day, sometimes twice a day. The incidence of calving is increasing and we have more information than just anecdotal stories like that. We have people like this science technician who, once a year puts on a backpack and hikes along the leading edge of the glacier. He has a GPS unit in his backpack that’s talking to a satellite over his head and can mark his position to something like a centimeter’s distance of resolution and then you can plot where the Marr glacier, the glacier behind the station has been over time and when Maggie and Chuck Amsler, my colleagues used to go down here in the late 70s, you could open the door at Palmer Station and almost step onto the glacier and now you have to hike a half a kilometer to get to the edge. And here’s an aerial picture that depicts this. Here’s Palmer Station, here’s where the glacier was in 1975 and look how far it’s receded in 2013.
There are other indications of glacial changes. Can you imagine a satellite being able to measure the thickness of a glacier from space but this essentially a satellite data showing that, again, glacial thinning, mostly on the western and the Antarctic peninsula, not so much on the east and then here’s Greenland, another area, very rapid forming in glacial melt. This brought some concern to scientists when the Thwaites glacier on the western side of Antarctica was discovered to be retreating very rapidly and there’s some concern because the Antarctic continent is covered with several miles deep ice and that ice is flowing seaward. So the western Antarctic ice sheet flows out through this area where the glacier is and there’s some concern that as the glacier dissipates that this will accelerate the rate of that movement of ice into the Amundsen sea. So why are we concerned about these ice sheets because, well, I’ll tell you in just a second. They have a number of important roles, if you will, along the peninsula.
This is a map that shows recent ice sheet breakouts over the last 30 years and I want to highlight the Larsen B ice shelf and we’ll go down and look at the Wilkins as well. So over on the eastern side of the peninsula, here’s the Larsen B ice shelf, a satellite, a NASA satellite took this image and lo and behold, striations were discovered in the ice sheet. Remember, this is 300 or 400 feet deep of ice, so this was on January 31, 2002. About a month later, the satellite image captured the Larsen B ice shelf fragmenting and two weeks later, the entire Larsen B ice shelf went out to sea. So this is a piece of ice real estate, the size of the state of Rhode Island. This is a large event. More recently, down here on the Wilkins ice shelf, this was in newspapers around the world, it was discovered that the Wilkins ice shelf was disintegrating and this was in 2009 and right now, as I’m speaking, there’s pieces of it that are still sort of hanging to an island but eventually, the entire Wilkins ice shelf will go out and this is about the size of the state of Connecticut, so large events.
The good news, for all of us, is that when these massive ice sheets break up and go out to sea and melt, they do not contribute to sea level rise and it’s the same physics as a glass of ice water. When the ice melts, the water doesn’t come over the top of the glass. The ice is already in the water. The concerning news is that these ice sheets serve as barriers that prevent or slow down the flow of ice off the continent into the sea and scientists have discovered in areas where the ice sheets have gone out, the rate of flow can be two or three times faster than it was before and that’s the ice we’re concerned about because as the ice comes off the land and enters the ocean, it does contribute to sea level rise and that’s why scientists have predicted taking Greenland and Antarctica into consideration that, by the end of the century, we’re going to have somewhere between about 0.4 and one meter of sea level rise. Well, as a marine ecologist, I’m really fascinated by how the marine life of the Antarctic peninsula is responding to such rapid change.
Change has always occurred but what’s happening now is really unprecedented in terms of the rate of change. So I’m very fortunate to know this guy here, Bill Frazier and Bill’s data is probably the most poignant story that I can share with you and it’s a story of Adelie penguins that go back 45 years, when Bill arrived at the station as a graduate student and when he arrived 45 years ago, he tagged 15,000 breeding pairs of Adelie penguins living on little islands just in front of the station. Bill told me last December that the number of penguins he’s going to count this year is probably going to be around 1500. So more than three-quarters of his penguins have disappeared and sadly, he has not found them in other rookeries; they are disappearing. So why are the Adelie penguins disappearing? Let me show you his data. Here’s when Bill showed up as a graduate student, 15,000 breeding pairs and here is the last estimate he gave me recently, back in November, 1500 pairs.
So this is that decline I talked about. Here’s the Adelies; they look like little Charlie Chaplins. Here’s the Gentoo and the Chinstrap. Now, interestingly, note that the Chinstrap penguins showed up in the 70s and now there’s about 300 breeding pairs of these beautiful little Chinstraps and there’s also about 1,000 breeding pairs of Gentoos. The interesting thing is they should not be here. These are sub-Antarctic species that are moving into the area as it’s warming and as it gets warmer, they can settle into the area and begin to establish these breeding colonies that they’ve established. So what in the world is going on as it warms, it’s causing problems for the Adelie. Bill has several ideas, let me share them with you. One of the things is that Bill and his colleagues have noticed that more and more now, ironically, as the air warms, it’s becoming more humid and it’s snowing more and it’s snowing later than it has in the past. So imagine this, you’re an Adelie penguin, you’re genetically hard-wired to show up at the same time, same week every year and lay your eggs.
Now, you lay your eggs and along comes this unseasonably late snowstorm, buries the colony in snow and you end up having that snow melt and drowning the eggs. And you can lose an entire generation of Adelies in one of these storm events and these are happening more and more commonly. That’s one pressure on the Adelie. The other is that the ecology of the Adelie penguin is intimately tied to the annual sea ice and that’s this ice that forms here; it’s very thin, maybe about three feet deep, it covers or surrounds the Antarctic continent every winter, doubles the size of the continent and guess what? In the last 30 years, about 40 percent of that annual sea ice is gone from the Antarctic peninsula as it warms and because the Adelie penguin uses that ice as a platform to toboggan across and get out to the edge where it feeds on krill, patches of these shrimp-like krill, the Adelies are now having to swim much further offshore to get to their food source than they used to and Bill believes they are on such a tight energy budget when they raise their chicks that that additional swimming to get to their food is critical and that could be another pressure.
The other thing that’s happening, as we’ve discovered, that when krill are teenagers, they live underneath the annual sea ice feeding on diatoms, the little plant cells that grow underneath the ice. So as the annual sea ice is disappearing, so are the krill populations dropping. So this puts an additional third pressure on the Adelies. Any of the organisms that are intimately involved in their ecology with the sea ice have a potential problem as that sea ice disappears. One of my favorite seals in Antarctica is the Weddell seal and there’s a wonderful story of evolution here. When the female Weddell seal is ready to give birth, she swims up under the annual sea ice until she finds a little weak spot in the ice and she chips away at it with her unique ice chipping teeth and then she can work it until it’s large enough that she can climb right up through the hole and lay next to the hole and give birth. And the beauty of that is that the predators, the leopard seals, the killer whales that could cause harm are over at the ice edge.
They can’t get to her and her pups and it’s all because of dentition; it’s all because of these unique ice-chipping teeth that she has and the male does not have. So is the Weddell seal going to disappear as the ice disappears? I don’t think so. I think the Weddell seal will follow the ice south as it moves south with warming. What about the leopard seal? Now how would you like to run into one of these when you’re scuba diving? You know what we do when we run into one when we’re scuba diving? We get out of the water. Very quickly. And if you’re up in the boat and the divers are down and the seal comes, we have a special leopard seal recall device. We haven’t patented it but we drop it in the water, we turn it on, siren goes off, the divers hear the siren underwater, they come together back-to-back and they work their way up very quickly, get in the boat and we leave the area and the leopard seal behind ’cause we don’t want to take a chance with these guys.
Now these guys, they’re about 10 feet long, 1,000 pounds, they will lay around on the sea ice to digest a meal. The question will be, when the sea ice is gone, are they going to come ashore to digest a meal or will they just, sort of, follow the ice? And nobody knows the answer yet. What about the small things like plankton, phytoplankton, zooplankton? How are they responding to these rapid changes in temperature, the warming that’s going on? Well, fortunately, we have this guy, Hugh Ducklow. Hugh Ducklow is the director of the National Science Foundation’s long-term ecological research program at Palmer Station. Thirty years plus of data looking at plankton up and down the peninsula. This is long before we even knew that climate change was going to have such a dramatic effect. So we’ve got some wonderful information to look at and Hugh and his colleagues, there’s about 20 scientists involved in this program have run these transects, these are ship transects up and down the peninsula for many, many years and if you look at these transects, this is the transects that were done in the 70s and 80s and the 90s and 2000s and they stopped at these stations along the transects and measured everything.
The phytoplankton, the zooplankton, the temperature, the salinity, it goes on and on and on. So they have a pretty good record and what they’re finding is that up here, at the tip of the peninsula, if you compare the 70s and 80s with the 90s and 2000s, the weather’s changed. It’s gotten much cloudier, it’s gotten considerably windier. We’re moving to a more warm, humid type of climate. What’s happening with the wind is it’s churning up the top of the ocean and it’s pushing the nice, juicy diatoms the krill-like to feed on and the diatoms and the krill, there’s less phytoplankton, less krill and unfortunately, salps are moving in. Evil salps. Salps are these little gelatinous organisms the size of a walnut. They’re tunicates, technically.
They’re oceanic, typically, but they’re moving in along the coast so we’re replacing krill, think steak with salps, think lettuce. That’s not a good trade-off so that’s a problem. So far, further down the peninsula, the group has found that the weather’s beginning to change a little bit but nothing like they’ve seen up in this region so we don’t have the negative effects, there’s still enough phytoplankton and diatoms and krill as you move further south. But Hugh Ducklow believes that over time and not too much time, the whole peninsula’s going to be looking very similar. What other things might happen as it warms? Well one thing you probably don’t realize is that underneath the ocean, in Antarctica, there are forests. Did you know Antarctica had forests? You just have to put on a dry suit, go to the western Antarctic peninsula, jump off a little boat into the water and you are swimming in a forest.
The algae will be maybe 15 to 20 feet above your head. There’s 150 species of algae growing, it’s a wonderful area. There’s enough light, there’s enough nutrients. What’s going to happen, I think, is these forests are going to be very happy. As it warms, the sea ice is going to retreat, the forest will have more light, they’ll grow deeper, they’ll further move their range down the coast. But we’re a little bit concerned as chemical ecologists because we know that these forests are producing chemical defenses and they’re using energy to make those defenses. And what’s going to happen when you alter the energy regime and how that’s going to effect the production of these defenses, who eats who and you could really alter the community in this sense. It might be in a good way, it might not. What about marine invertebrate larvae and warming? Well when I was doing work as a post-doc in Antarctica, one of the things that we studied was the larvae of echinoderms.
You probably don’t realize that you’re looking at a baby starfish in this picture. This will metamorphose much like a caterpillar metamorphoses into a butterfly. It’s a dramatic reorganization of the organism but most marine invertebrates, sponges and corals and starfish and sea urchins produce larvae and we brought a variety of larvae into the lab and we raised the temperature a tiny bit, two degrees. Now remember, these animals are living at a very constant temperature of about -1.8 degrees. When we raise the temperature two degrees, the larvae develop twice as fast as they normally do. It didn’t take ’em two months to develop, it took ’em one month. Well that might be a good thing, here in the water for a shorter time, things can’t eat you, perhaps, you settle before you get eaten. On the other hand, many of these larvae feed on phytoplankton and these phytoplankton have blooms and what happens if the bloom was to occur later than you were ready to start eating.
So you show up at the cafeteria and the door is locked. This is something that climate scientists are very concerned about that we will offset predator and prey with the warming that’s happening. This is just a quick little graph to show you these are Antarctic species and temperate and tropical species and if you look at the Antarctic embryos, you change that temperate a tiny bit and you have a huge effect on the rate of development. This seems to be a very basic function of their physiology and development. All right, so I already mentioned two species that have shown up at my station that haven’t been there in the past, remember, the Gentoo penguin and the Chinstrap. Well, I can tell you that 15 years ago when I showed up at Palmer, the chances of my opening the door of the station and tripping over a 2000 pound male bull elephant seal was really, really low.
And now there are times of year when you open the door of the station and not only do you see a dozen elephant seals lounging around in the middle of the station but these things are incredibly smelly. I mean this is odiferous. So we have been invaded by elephant seals, they have now established a breeding colony across on our little island, you can hear the pups and the barking and the battling and then these guys showed up recently, the Antarctic fur seal. Again, a sub-Antarctic species moving in as it’s becoming warmer and warmer. And they have just began to establish breeding colonies too. Now probably the most poignant story I can tell you about what I would call a range extension of a species in Antarctica or maybe be so sort of brave as they say – invasion – is something I’m going to set the stage with, with this photograph. So imagine this: 35 million years ago Antarctica separated from South America on its way to its position at the South Pole area. When it pulled free of South America, it allowed the establishment of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the world’s largest current.
It essentially locked the continent into a freezer, an icebox. Those species that were able to survive did, those that couldn’t evolve to live at the very low temperatures perished. But there are some very interesting things that you don’t find in Antarctic waters that tie back to this sort of scenario. There are no sharks in Antarctica, there are very few skates, there are no fish that have strong crushing jaws, they’re called durophagous fish. All the fish in Antarctica are wimps. They feed on little crustaceans, they have weak little jaws, they do not sound like a parrotfish crunching coral on a reef, there’s nothing like that. There’s nothing in Antarctica with a claw. There’s no crabs, there’s no lobsters. So my point is that the marine invertebrates that coat the sea floor in Antarctica have never had to deal with a crushing predator.
If I was to hand Betsy a clam from Antarctica, she could take her two fingers and she could crush the shell as easy as could be. They’re very weakly calcified, they’re not like the shells you find here on the beaches of Florida, some of those things look like they’re designed to be hit with a sledgehammer and still survive. In Antarctica, you can crush these shells and I believe it’s in part, because they’ve never had to deal with crushing predators so you can imagine the shock of my colleague, Sven Thatje who, on January 25, 2007 was 1123 meters above where this photograph was taken, he was flying a remote-operated vehicle along the sea floor of the slope of Antarctica and he came across 13 big king crabs that were marching up the slope. So this is interesting because we thought that king crabs couldn’t handle the cold. Crabs don’t do well with cold. They have a hard time regulating magnesium ions and their body fluids, they act like they’re drunk, they fall over, they can’t feed. So what might be happening now is at that Antarctic Circumpolar Current is beginning to warm, we might be opening the physiological curtain to allow king crabs that have lived for many, many thousands of years surrounding Antarctica in the deep, they may be moving up the slope and we actually have some research going on in my group looking at this.
This was another group of scientists that happened on a million and a half of these crabs in a deep canyon near the station and we have had the good fortune of the National Science Foundation funding us now for about five years and every year we take this research vessel to Antarctica, we take a submarine and we tow it up the Antarctic slope and onto the shelf, taking images of the sea floor every five seconds for a number of these transects and then we engage graduate students to go through tens of thousands of images to count the numbers of crabs and whether they’re feeding on the starfish and the brittle stars, how are they impacting the environment, and in fact, we are finding that they are having an impact. So this is an important potential invasion of a predator into an ecosystem that hasn’t seen this kind of predator for many millions of years. The last thing I want to talk about in terms of impacts, ocean acidification. Perhaps the lonely stepchild to climate warming.
You don’t hear as much about ocean acidification but this is very important. What happens when we put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, about 30 percent of what we put up there goes into the ocean. And that causes a chemical reaction that makes the seawater more acidic. Antarctica is the canary in the coalmine for ocean acidification, that’s because the water’s very cold and carbon dioxide tends to dissolve in colder water more readily. It’s because I’ve already told you they don’t really have very thick shells to begin with so the acidification dissolves the shell, there’s not much there to begin with. And some other reasons as well. It’s harder to build the shell in Antarctic waters and I won’t go into the chemistry mineralogy of that but it’s true.
So you can go to Antarctica today, you can take a net and you can dip up a little sea butterfly. These little sea butterflies are snails that have evolved wings and they swim in the water. They’re about a millimeter, just a tenth of an inch across and they’re as common as the stars in our sky. They are so abundant that they contribute to the global carbon flow on this planet. And you know what? Today, there are certain areas of Antarctic waters where you can see the shell dissolving under a microscope. There are already etches in the shell from acidification so this is happening now and it could have an effect — ocean acidification could affect krill, it could affect amphipods that are carrying a sea butterfly to defend themselves from predators, ’cause the sea butterfly tastes terrible. It’s got a chemical in it. You take the sea butterfly off the back of this little amphipod, it’ll get eaten every time by a fish. You leave the little living sea butterfly on its back, the fish will take it in its mouth, taste it and spit it right back out again, that little shrimp will swim away happy as a clam and it’s all because it abducted another species and carried it around on its back like a backpack.
Do you love that story? I think it’s so cool. So I have a couple of grad students that are finishing up a lot of work on ocean acidification at my home away from home, Palmer Station and these two young ladies are now going off to jobs and post-docs but they’re publishing some of the first work that’s starting to look at how Antarctic organisms may respond to ocean acidification. So this is a list of what I’ve been talking about, the glacial recession, the ice sheet break up, the annual sea ice retreating, how organisms that are associated with the sea ice are impacted like the Adelie and the Weddell and krill, phytoplankton communities that are changing, potential effects on these macroalgal forests and larval development, things showing up like elephant seals, fur seals, maybe king crabs and ocean acidification. So it’s really remarkable how much is happening so quickly. So this is what the community of the western Antarctic peninsula has looked like for millennia.
You have, every year, the annual sea ice platform, you have a very robust population of Adelies, lots of krill, a few salps, happy diatoms, you’ve got this sea floor community and the forest and this is all being fed by these very nutrient-rich Antarctic Circumpolar Current waters. Now here’s what’s coming. Probably by the end of the century, maybe sooner, the annual sea ice will no longer be here, the Adelie will be gone, replaced with the Gentoo and the Chinstrap. The krill will be largely depleted and lots and lots of salps; we may have king crabs in this ecosystem, the forest will have extended its range and again, all being fed by these very nutrient-rich waters. So this is a community shift, a very dramatic effect and it’s not that communities don’t change, of course they always change but what’s happening here is happening over a few decades instead of hundreds, probably thousands of years. So that’s the difference.
So why should we care? Why should we care about climate change in Antarctica? Antarctica’s a long way from Harbor Branch. So let me give you one quick story about why I think it’s important and that is related to my own research program in chemical ecology. So imagine this: the sea floor of Antarctic is very old. I mean, it’s 35 million years of evolution that’s taken place in these organisms. Those organisms that defend themselves with toxic chemicals have had a long time to make quite a library of nasty chemicals and guess what those nasty chemicals can do? They can fight cancer and AIDS and cystic fibrosis and bacterial infections. We have a drugstore on the seafloor in Antarctica. So when we go out and we’re doing our chemical ecology work, we’re also collecting specimens to look at their natural products chemistry either by diving off these boats or under the ice. And I’m just going to tell you two quick stories.
One of them is a compound that we discovered in a little tunicate called the Synoicum. It’s about the size of a grapefruit and if you take the chemistry, the toxic chemical out, this is what it looks like; we called it Palmerolide you get to name the chemical when you discover it so we named it after the station, Palmerolide. So then we sent it off to the National Cancer Institute which we do with hundreds of chemicals and extracts and guess what? They called us up and they said, “You know, we ran this stuff against 25 different cell lines of cancer. It’s not active against 24, but it’s extremely active against one line of cancer.” And that’s really neat because we like compounds that are very, very specific in their activity. So they said, “Can we work on this compound?” And when the National Cancer Institute asks you if they can work on their compound you say “Yes”.
So they did and they tested it and they made it in the lab and they put it in mice and it’s really kind of cool. It’s very, very active against melanoma, skin cancer. And there have been interests from developers that might take that to a drug. Wouldn’t that be neat to have another drug to fight skin cancer and melanoma from Antarctica. Here’s a red alga from Antarctica that has a protein in it that’s very active against the H1N1 flu virus. Another example of how Antarctic sea floor animals and plants, algae, might hold promise for our future. So I give a lot of lectures around the country, indeed, around the world, on climate change and I used to get asked this question: “Is it really warming?” I don’t think I’ve been asked this question for five years now, I really haven’t. You can go online and Google ‘global warming’ and you can find lots of evidence for global warming but I want to show you what convinced me without a doubt that global warming is real.
Now nobody in their right mind can take these data to hand. I mean nobody. These are proof positive. So what I get asked about now is: “Okay, so it’s warming, do we have anything to with that or is this just a natural cycle that happens every so many years and we really don’t have much of an impact on it ourselves?” So I want to show you the data that convinced me. I’m a scientist, I’m very objective, I have to be convinced with data and these are the data. Now this is actually quite simple. What you’re looking at here is in Antarctica. It’s a core; it’s a core of ice that goes 3600 meters down through the ice sheet that covers the continent of Antarctica, 3600 meters. It’s a core of ice that’s going through history because trapped in that core of ice are little air bubbles and when those air bubbles were formed at depth, they represented the atmosphere of the earth at that time.
And we’re going back here 430,000 years. So this is the time axis. In the red line you’re looking at carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, right? In the blue line, you’re looking at temperature, which is derived by using some oxygen isotope ratios but I want you to focus on the carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas. I drew a black line right here because you never see, in our past history, and this has been extended back now to a million years with the same pattern. You never see this red line get above 300 parts per million carbon dioxide. Looks what happens over here at the onset of the Industrial Revolution and I’ve blown that up. Here you go, the red line shoots up and up and up and up and now recently, it’s hit 400 parts per million and that’s, what, 25 percent increase in CO2 since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. and nobody argues about CO2 being a greenhouse gas, it’s a very potent greenhouse gas.
So to me, personally, that was a very strong indication that we have a significant role in the warming that we’re experiencing, how much? Nobody can really say exactly but I think most all scientists would agree that it’s significant. So I know you were dying to know why there’s this 100,000 year cycle in carbon dioxide on our planet. And the way that it’s explained, it actually has a name, the Milankovitch cycle, it’s a 100,000-year cycle of the earth in an elliptical orbit around the sun. This happens over 100,000 years and this drives that warming, cooling, that increase in CO2, the decrease in CO2 that you saw. So. Gloom and doom. But I don’t want to leave you with that because I’m too much of an optimist, kind of glass half-full scientist. So I want to leave you this really neat story and it happened just 20 miles from where I work in Antarctica. So imagine this: it’s 1985 and you’re a technician, you’re sitting at your desk at the station 20 miles from where I work – it’s a Ukrainian station now, it used to be British – and you look at the data set and you go, “I just don’t want to send this back to the boss in Great Britain, he’s not going to believe it.
” So they send it back to their boss in Great Britain and he doesn’t believe it. He says, “Okay, I’m going to send you back to Antarctica next year, I’m giving you a new spectrophotometer, you’re going to make all the measurements over again and then you can tell me what you find.” So they did, they went back the next year. Lo and behold, they got the same dataset, they told their boss and he said, “How in the world could the world have missed this story?” And he published, with some of his colleagues, probably one of the most important papers, essentially, of the 20th century, reporting a massive hole over the entire continent of Antarctica – and remember Antarctica’s the size of China and India combined – and so large that at times it extended over the New Zealand continent: the hole in the ozone. Now ozone is a very important part of our atmosphere because it protects us from ultraviolet radiation.
And when I was living in New Zealand 10 years ago on sabbatical with my family, I would read the paper in the morning with my coffee and there would be an SPF factor in the weather area. What level of sunscreen was I to put on that day in New Zealand, based on where this hole in the ozone was? And when it was over New Zealand, that number was big. And New Zealand has the largest incidence or the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. So that atmosphere, that ozone, that layer of the atmosphere is very, very critical. So it wasn’t so amazing to me that everybody had missed this amazing story but what happened next? In 1987, over 20 countries sat down around a table in Montreal, Canada and ratified the Montreal protocol, which regulated the chlorofluorocarbons, the refrigerants that were discovered to be the cause of the hole in the ozone. It’s really quite amazing. Today, there are 192 signatories to the Montreal protocol.
It’s probably the most successful global treaty of all time and when Susan Solomon came to visit my university a few years ago, the woman who discovered the basis of the hole in the ozone, a very famous American scientist, chemist, I asked her on the way to the way to the airport, I said, “Susan, what’s going on with the hole in the ozone?” And she said, “It’s good news. It stopped growing and there’s now predictions that by the end of the century, it’s going to close and maybe sooner.” So this is just a wonderful example of how countries can come together and come to an agreement to regulate something that was having a global impact on earth. So I just want to segue quickly ’cause I know I just have a minute to tell you about some things that happened to me because of the books that I’ve published recently. So I’ve got two books, as you know and I’ve just gone into becoming an author for the general public. I had no idea that books could open doors. One of the things that happened when my first book came out is E.
O. Wilson, a very famous scientist put me on his Board of Advisors. Everybody had a Nobel Prize on that board except me; it was embarrassing. But I got this phone call from the director of the E.O. Wilson Foundation, she said, “Jim we love your chapter in your book on the Adelie penguin. We would like to make a two minute video that’s going to go across America in the zoos, in the aquariums about the Adelie penguin and we think your prose is wonderful, we want to just have it read.” I said I’d be so honored to read my prose and she said, “No, we’ll have Harrison do it.” And I said, “Harrison who?” And she said, “Harrison Ford.” She said, “You didn’t know he was on the board with you?” I said, “No, I thought everybody had a Nobel Prize.” So you can go to YouTube and you can hear Harrison reading my prose: Ghost Rookeries.
The other thing I didn’t realize was that I would meet this guy. So I was minding my own business one day at the station and I happened to be the eldest scientist or whatever, I was the chief scientist by, sort of, default and the station manager said, “We have somebody coming tomorrow, would you please host the visit?” I said “Sure, who is it?” They said, “We can’t tell you.” I said, “What? Security? In Antarctica? You’ve gotta be kidding me.” So the next day Bill Jr. and his dad, Bill Sr. showed up and so does Bill Jr.’s stepmother and Bill Jr.’s son, Rory. So I had all four of ’em for the day, had a wonderful visit, got to know them over lunch, showed ’em the station labs. Well, after lunch, the thing to do was to take Bill and his father up to see the National Science Foundation video. So it’s a big screen, I put two big chairs in the front of the room for them, Bill, Bill and then I’m sitting behind them. Well imagine this, in comes the IT guy and he cannot get Microsoft to boot up. Two minutes went by. Do you know how long two minutes is in computer time? And his father finally looked at him and went, “You really need to do something about this, Bill.” And I thought, “That is a Microsoft moment.
” All right. So let me end by telling you that I lead cruises to Antarctica now; a scientist leading cruises to Antarctica, imagine that. Well, once a year now, Abercrombie & Kent ask me to come along and lead this philanthropic cruise to Antarctica. We go to the peninsula for 10 days. It’s wonderful, it’s educational. We visit the station where I work and if anybody’s interested in that, I’ll let you know, give you a card or something like that but this particular cruise in January 2017 is already full, they’re taking a waitlist but I’ll do in ’18, I’ll do it in ’19, I will do it until I literally can’t walk. To go to Antarctica every time is so special. So with that, I’d be happy to take any questions..