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Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute lecture series

Lectures on Polar matters.

Lectures are usually held in the lecture theatre at the Scott Polar Research Institute.

Lectures are free to members, non-members are very welcome and will be charged £5 to attend.

There is no need to pre-book tickets, unless stated so in the lecture description.

For details of how to join the Friends please see the link to the left (under Friends of SPRI).

Refreshments are available for purchase at a small charge.

Please check details below, some lectures may be at different times, locations or be charged at a different rate.

View the archive of previous seminars.

# Saturday 28th February 2015, 7.30pm - Colin Summerhayes
Earth's Climate Evolution
Venue: SPRI Lecture Theatre, Lensfield Road

Ice sheets are melting. “Global warming deniers are fond of saying “the climate is always changing”. Well, yes it is, but why, and how, and how much? Studying the geological and ice core record helps us to see how variable our climate is, and what makes it so, which helps to explain what is happening now and what may happen next. The past 30 years have seen especially dramatic advances in our knowledge of past climatic variability, from studies of ice cores, along with piston cores and drill cores of marine sediment. A key emerging message is that our climate operates within a narrow natural envelope. Over the past 2000 years we have been at the cold end of the Holocene Neoglacial period, driven there by changes in Earth’s orbit. Peaks in solar output gave us the Medieval Warm Period and the warming from 1900 to 1945, but since 1960 solar output has been flat or in decline, while temperatures have gone on rising even though the orbital data tell us we should still be in the cool Neoglacial. We have been driven outside the natural climate envelope by our emissions of CO2. This geologically based information is independent of numerical climate models, yet supports them. The rock and ice records tell us that further increasing CO2 will drive up temperature and sea level.

Colin Summerhayes is a marine geochemist with expertise in determining past climates from the characteristics of marine sediments. He is an Emeritus Associate at the Scott Polar Research Institute of the University of Cambridge. Formerly he was Executive Director of the International Council for Science’s Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), Director of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) Project at UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in Paris, Director of the UK’s Institute of Oceanographic Sciences Deacon Laboratory (Wormley), and Deputy Director of what is now the National Oceanography Centre.

His books include “Oceanography – an Illustrated Guide”, “Oceans 2020 – Science, Trends and the Challenge of Sustainability”, “Antarctic climate Change and the Environment”, and (in press) “Earth’s Climate Evolution

# Saturday 14th March 2015, 7.30pm - Stephen Pax Leonard
Life on the edge: language and story telling in a cold place
Venue: SPRI Lecture Theatre, Lensfield Road

In 2010, Leonard set off on a journey to document the language and spoken traditions of a small group of Inuit living in a remote corner of north-west Greenland. This group call themselves the Inugguit (the ‘big people’) and they speak an exceedingly complex language understood by few outsiders. The Inugguit number 700 and live in the northern most permanently inhabited place in the world, occupying four different settlements scattered across an area the size of Germany. Leonard lived with the Inugguit for 12 months, learning their language and living their way of life, not leaving the region at any point. As a teenager, Leonard had read about the Inugguit through the accounts of the explorer, Sir Wally Herbert who lived in the region in the early 1970s and who had been a motivation for his journey.

Travelling with hunters out on the Arctic sea ice, he followed in Herbert’s footsteps and discovered another world entirely, a way of life more or less unchanged for a thousand years. Living such a simple life in a pre-industrial society at the top of the world, Leonard came to understand the Inugguit’s privileged take on the busy, overpopulated world that lies beneath them. Back in the settlements, traditional life was juxtaposed with a modern, consumerist lifestyle that has now made it to every corner of the planet. Some of the Inugguit may live in tiny, wind-beaten wooden cabins with no running water, but Amazon delivers.

This lecture is a story of a year spent documenting the language and stories of a small group of Arctic hunters whose ancient way of life is now in sharp transition. Affected directly by climate change, their quiet corner of the planet is melting. Their white, Arctic universe is about to become the epicenter of a geo-political battle over the remaining finite resources left on Earth, a place where polar bear fur clad Arctic hunters and their dog teams meet precious metal prospectors with satellite based spectroscopes and hundreds of millions of dollars to spend.