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    Climate Change Milestones
    Timeline of Notable Scientists and Contributions

    Climate Change Milestones

    1824: Joseph Fourier (1768 - 1830), French mathematician: credited with the discovery of the greenhouse effect.

    1837: Louis Agassiz (1807 - 1873), Swiss: the first to scientifically propose that the Earth had been subject to a past ice age and to demonstrate glacial movements.

    1850s: John Tyndall (1820 - 1893), Britsh physicist: Prior to Tyndall it was widely surmised that the Earth's atmosphere has a Greenhouse Effect, but he was the first to prove it. From his experiments he concluded that water vapour is the strongest absorber of radiant heat in the atmosphere and is the principal gas controlling air temperature.

    1864: James Croll (1821 - 1890), Scottish geologist: proposed that changes in earth's orbit could trigger cycles of ice ages by changing the total amount of winter sunlight in the high latitudes. His ideas were widely discussed but not accepted.

    1887: Friederich Sporer (1822 - 1895), German astronomer: was the first to note a prolonged period of low sunspot activity from 1645 to 1715. This period is known today as the Maunder Minimum.

    1890: Edward Walter Maunder (1851 - 1928), English astronomer: studied sunspots and the solar magnetic cycle that led to the later identification, by John A. Eddy in 1976, of the period from 1645 to 1715 that is now known as the Maunder Minimum.

    1890: Samuel Pierpont Langley (1834 - 1906), American astronomer: Langley published - together with Frank Washington Very (1852 - 1927), American astronomer - the infrared spectra of absorption in the earth's atmosphere by the greenhouse gases of carbon dioxide that was used by Svante Arrhenius later to make the first calculations on the greenhouse effect.

    1896: Svante Arrhenius (1859 - 1927), Swedish physicist: was the first scientist to speculate that changes in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could substantially alter the surface temperature through the greenhouse effect; developed a theory to explain the ice ages.

    1938: Guy Stewart Callendar (1898 - 1964), English steam engineer: the first to empirically connect rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere with the increase in the Earth’s temperature.

    1941: Milutin Milankovic (1879 – 1958), Serbian geophysicist: suggested relationship between Earth's long-term climate changes and periodic changes in its orbit, now known as Milankovitch cycles.

    1968: Paul R. Ehrlich (1932 - ), American biologist: in his The Population Bomb he mentioned possible climate change from increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

    1970s: James Lovelock (1919 - ), British environmentalist and futurologist: best known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis (composed of a few scientific models) which focuses on observing how the biosphere and the evolution of life forms contribute to the stability of global temperature, ocean salinity, oxygen in the atmosphere and other factors of habitability.

    1975: Veerabhadran Ramanathan (1944 - ), Indian oceanographer: found that a CFC (chlorofluorocarbon present in refrigerants, propellants, aerosols, freon, and solvents) molecule could be 10,000 times more effective in absorbing infrared radiation than a carbon dioxide molecule, making CFCs potentially important despite their very low concentrations in the atmosphere.

    1976: John A. Eddy (1931 - 2009), American astronomer: published a landmark paper in Science titled The Maunder Minimum where using the Nineteenth Century works of Edward W. Maunder and Gustav Spörer, he identified a 70-year period from 1645 to 1715 as a time when solar activity all but stopped. The Maunder Minimum coincided with the middle - and coldest part - of the Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America were subjected to bitterly cold winters.

    1988: James Hansen (1941 - ), American: made one of the first assessments that human-caused warming had already measurably affected global climate.

    2004: James Lovelock (1919 - ), British environmentalist: suggested that only nuclear power can halt global warming because nuclear energy is the only realistic alternative to fossil fuels that has the capacity to both fulfill the large scale energy needs of humankind while also reducing greenhouse emissions.

    2007: Henrik Svensmark (1958 - ), Danish Physicist: suggested that solar activity is an indirect cause of global warming and downplayed the atmospheric CO2 role in affecting recent global warming (his theory is controversial).

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    Last updated: June 2013
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