PSU Climatologist Making International Headlines

October, 2006
Michael Prentice (with saw) capping a sediment core from L. Gwam at 11,000 ft in Papua New Guinea, with Professor Wibjorn Karlen, head of the Department of Physical Geography at Stockholm University in Sweden. Karlen is a world expert in this type of lake sediment coring.

Michael Prentice (with saw) capping a sediment core from L. Gwam at 11,000 ft in Papua New Guinea, with Professor Wibjorn Karlen, head of the Department of Physical Geography at Stockholm University in Sweden. Karlen is a world expert in this type of lake sediment coring.

Michael Prentice, a research climatologist appointed jointly to PSU’s Center for the Environment and meteorology program, has been showing up in the news from Norway to the U.K. to the U.S. and beyond.

An article in the British magazine New Scientist (March 11, 2006) featuring Prentice’s research on the effects of global warming in New Guinea captured the attention of a number of international publications as well as the Reuters news agency, which released the story March 9 to its international audience.

The New Scientist article read, in part, “A paradise world of undiscovered species and tropical glaciers in the mountains of New Guinea is disappearing faster than it can be explored. So says a climate scientist who has discovered that global warming there is happening 20 times faster than previously thought. … All of this might be threatened, says Michael Prentice of Plymouth State University, New Hampshire. On recent visits to the island he uncovered a mass of previously unpublished meteorological data among the records of mission stations, coffee plantations and the mining companies that have recently moved into the highlands. ‘We have seven or eight good sets covering the period after the early 1970s. They show a real step change, with warming of 0.3°C every decade,’ he says. This is five times the previous estimated warming for the region, and among the fastest in the world.”

Prentice studies regional climate change on time scales of days to millions of years using instrumental records and natural sediment archives from lakes, glaciers and the ocean. His work has principally been in New Guinea, Antarctica and New England. The primary goal in each place is to reconstruct and understand the behavior of the regional climate system (atmosphere-land-ocean) and—in Antarctica—the ice sheets. By covering the warmest and coldest regions on the planet, this work helps to predict both regional and global climate changes and their impacts. Prentice is also studying the recent history of New Hampshire lakes using the sediment record and building a regional environmental information system that couples the atmosphere and land surface.—Marcia L. Santore


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