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The Arctic may be free of ice for the first time in 10,000 years. Wadhams shows how sea ice is the ‘canary in the mine’ of planetary climate change. He describes how it forms and the vital role it plays in reflecting solar heat back into space and providing an ‘air conditioning’ system for the planet.
Prof. Peter Wadhams is the UK’s most experienced sea ice scientist, with 48 years of research on sea ice and ocean processes in the Arctic and the Antarctic. This has focused on expeditions and measurements in the field, which has involved more than 50 expeditions to both polar regions, working from ice camps, icebreakers, aircraft, and, uniquely, Royal Navy submarines (6 submerged voyages to the North Pole ). His research group in Cambridge has been the only UK group with the capacity to carry out fieldwork on sea ice.
He is Emeritus Professor of Ocean Physics and is the author of numerous publications on dynamics and thermodynamics of sea ice, sea ice thickness, waves in ice, icebergs, ocean convection and kindred topics. The current main topics of research in the group are sea ice properties, dynamics, and distributions in thickness and concentration. He is also a pioneer in the use of AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles) under sea ice, using multibeam sonar to map bottom features, work which he has also been done from UK nuclear submarines.
He began his research career at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University, where he rose to become Director. He moved to DAMTP in 2001. He has also held visiting professorships in Tokyo (National Institute of Polar Research), Monterey (US Naval Postgraduate School), Seattle (University of Washington) and La Jolla (Green Scholar at Scripps Institution of Oceanography).
He was the coordinator of several European Union Arctic flagship projects (ESOP, GreenICE, CONVECTION, and others) and is currently on the Steering Committee of the EU ICE-ARC project as well as a major US Office of Naval Research initiative in the Arctic. He served eight years on the Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency and had served on panels of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).
In 1990 he received the Italgas Prize for Environmental Sciences, and he has also been awarded the Polar Medal (UK) (1987) and the W.S. Bruce Prize of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. As well as being Professor at Cambridge he is an Associate Professor at the Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche, run by Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, and is a Professor at the Università Politecnica Delle Marche, Ancona. He is a Member of the Finnish Academy and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
His most recent book, “A Farewell to Ice”, documents the ways in which the retreat of sea ice in the Arctic generates feedbacks which impact the entire global climate system, accelerating the rate of warming, the rate of sea level rise, the emission of methane from the offshore, and the occurrence of weather extremes affecting food production. He contends that catastrophic consequences cannot be avoided without making an all-out effort to develop ways of directly capturing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
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