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2015 News Releases



Jochem Marotzke to Deliver the 15th Annual Henry W. Kendall Lecture

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Recent Global Temperature Trends: What do they tell us about anthropogenic climate change?

By Jochem Marotzke

Max-Planck Institut Für Meteorologie 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Wong Auditorium, in the Tang Center, E51-115 (map)

Sponsored by the MIT Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, the 15th Annual Henry W. Kendall Lecture will feature a lecture by Jochem Marotzke, of the Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology, discussing the recent global temperature trends and what they tell us about anthropogenic climate change.

Observations suggest a hiatus in global surface temperature rise since 1998, whereas most climate models simulate continued warming. What causes this difference? Do climate models respond too sensitively to the increase in greenhouse-gas concentrations such as that of CO2, and thus overestimate climate change systematically? Or has the discrepancy arisen by chance? And what is the relevance of this discrepancy for our assessment of long-term anthropogenic climate change? 

In his lecture, Jochem Marotzke will illustrate the physically fundamental manifestation of anthropogenic climate change: the ocean’s heat content increases because of the greenhouse effect from rising greenhouse-gas concentrations. This increase in heat content has gone on unabated for at least the past forty years. In his talk, Dr. Marotzke will also show that differences between different model simulations – and hence also differences between simulations and observations – are dominated by chance events if we consider temperature changes over periods as short as fifteen years. By contrast, it matters little whether models respond more or less sensitively to increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations, if we only consider changes over fifteen years. The difference between simulated and observed global surface temperature changes during the hiatus period thus tells us very little about model capability or lack thereof, and as an indicator of anthropogenic climate change the surface-warming hiatus is largely irrelevant.

The talk is open to the public, and will include a reception to follow in the Green Building Lounge in room 54-923.

About the Henry W. Kendall Lecture

The Henry W. Kendall Memorial Lecture Series co-sponsored by CEE and EAPS honors the memory of Professor Henry W. Kendall (1926-1999) who was the J.A. Stratton professor of physics at MIT. Professor Kendall received the Nobel Prize in 1990 for research that provided the first experimental evidence for quarks. He had a deep commitment to understanding and finding solutions to the multiple environmental problems facing the world today and in the future. The permanently endowed Kendall Lecture allows MIT faculty and students to be introduced to forefront areas in global change science by leading researchers.

A founding member of the Union of Concerned Scientists in 1969, he served as its chair for 25 years. Prof. Kendall was deeply involved with arms control and nuclear power safety issues. He played a leading role in organizing scientific community statements on global problems, including the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity in 1992 and the Call for Action at the Kyoto Climate Summit in 1997. His publications included, “Energy Strategies: Toward a Solar Future” (1980), “Beyond the Freeze” (1982), “Fallacy of Star Ways” (1985), and “Crisis Stability and Nuclear War” (1988). He received the Bertram Russell Society award in 1992, the Environmental Leadership award from Tufts University’s Lincol Filene Center in 1991, the Ettore Majorana-Erice Science for Peace prize in 1994, the Award for Leadership in Environmental Stewardship from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in 1997 and the Nicholson Medal for Humanitarian Services from the American Physical Society in 1998