Former scientist speaks about climate change

LEWISTON – Arctic ice layers mark the years like the rings in a tree.

In a cross-section, summer’s darker ice marks the time against winter’s whiter crystals. Drill deep enough and one can glimpse the Earth as it was millennia ago.

“We can visibly count the layers. It’s that simple,” said Michael Morrison of Falmouth, who spent five years as the scientific director of a project called Greenland Ice Sheet Project Two. The University of New Hampshire initiative drilled 2 miles of ice, reaching 100,000 years back in time.

Though the drilling ended almost 15 years ago, Morrison remains convinced by the findings of his group.

The Earth’s climate is changing, he said. And it can change fast.

It was part of the message Morrison hoped to make on Thursday, when L-A College held its Earth Day celebration.

Though Morrison has left science as an everyday occupation – currently running a fine art photography business – he continues to give speeches regularly on climate change. Like former Vice President Al Gore, with whom he studied to speak on the environment, Morrison believes people can save money or even make more while being friendly with the environment.

Some of the savings are easy, such as turning off lights or buying fuel-efficient cars.

“I’m not talking about doing with less,” he said.

If you are building a new house, you can use utility-saving designs that often cost the same as traditionally built homes, he said.

“The tough part is finding the people who know how to do it,” he said.

Another personal choice is to buy quality, he said.

For example, Morrison drives a 10-year-old Volkswagen Passat. It lasts longer than many less-expensive cars. Over the long haul, he plans to spend less and he’ll save the environmental impact of producing or disposing of another vehicle.

For most of Morrison’s speech – accompanied by a computer slide show – he illustrated the shrinking of the polar ice caps, the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the effects of a warmer Earth.

Like in Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” Morrison portrayed an overpopulated world with flooded shorelines. He cited lots of studies, including the results of his own five-year mission.

The biggest discovery was a 68-degree shift in Greenland’s temperature that occurred about 12,000 years ago. It happened in a single year, faster than most experts thought possible.

“It’s like moving from Anchorage to Panama,” Morrison said.

Smaller discoveries are still being made.

The chemistry, isotopes and dust present in the ice can show a lot about the past. Lots of dust 40,000 years ago suggests wind. Little salt might mean little sea ice.

The ice also included the prehistoric air.

Like the amber-preserved mosquitoes of “Jurassic Park,” air bubbles of trapped atmosphere were preserved in the ice.

That data is still being examined, Morrison said.

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