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Wallace Smith Broecker, Scientist Who Popularized Term 'Global Warming', Dies At 87

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Wallace Smith Broecker, the scientist who raised early warnings about climate change and popularized the term global warming has passed away. He was 87 years old.

Newberry Professor Of Earth And Environmental Sciences

Kevin Krajick, spokesperson for the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at the Columbia University, said the researcher died at a New York City hospital on Monday, following months of illness.

Broecker was born Nov. 29, 1931, in Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree in physics at Columbia College in 1953 and his Ph.D. in geology from Columbia University five years later. He held the title Newberry Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the university's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Popularized The Term Global Warming

Broecker popularized the use of global warming with a 1975 article where he predicted that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could lead to pronounced warming of the planet.

He eventually became the first person to recognize the Ocean Conveyor Belt, a global network of deep-ocean currents driven by temperature and salinity that affects rain patterns and air temperature.

Warned Of The Dangers Of Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas

Broecker described the conveyor as the "Achilles heel of the climate system." He said it would only take a slight increase in temperature to bring the conveyor to a halt, and cited the possibility that warming caused by the buildup of planet-warming greenhouse gases can dramatically affect the currents of the oceans.

As early as the early 1980s, Broecker warned a House subcommittee that the accumulation of greenhouse gases calls for a bold, new national effort to understand how the atmosphere, oceans, ice, and the terrestrial biosphere operates.

He warned that by dumping huge amounts of greenhouses gases such as carbon dioxide, humanity is engaging itself in an experiment that may have a devastating effect. Today, scientists recognize the dangers of climate change, warning that increasing temperatures could lead to the decimation of species, sea level rise, and deadly megastorms.

"We live in a climate system that can jump abruptly from one state to another," he said. "We're playing with an angry beast - a climate system that has been shown to be very sensitive."

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