Thirty-five years ago this month, Columbia University geologist Wallace Broecker published a paper in the journal Science that correctly predicted the carbon dioxide-linked warming trends we are now experiencing as part of climate change and, for the first time, used the term "global warming."
He wasn't the first to predict that rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere would alter climate patterns, but, explains scientist Stefan Rahmstorf, Broecker was the first to take predictions of CO2-linked warming and put them into the context of other, ongoing, climate trends—coming to the conclusion that the cooling experienced from the 1940s through the 1970s was about to reverse itself in a big way.
It's worth reading Rahmstorf's full explanation of Broecker's work, because it does a good job of explaining the basics of climate science that we're still grappling with today. As Rahmstorf puts it:
"Even today, many lay people incorrectly assume that we attribute global warming to CO2 basically because temperature and CO2 levels have both gone up and thus correlate. Broecker came to his prediction at a time when CO2 had been going up but temperatures had been going down for decades—but Broecker (like most other climate scientists at the time, and today) understood the basic physics of the issue.
Real Climate: Happy 35th Birthday, Global Warming!
(Via Emma Farrell)
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.