Groundbreaking climate scientist dies

A Danish scientist who first recognised that a record of the world’s climate was preserved in the Greenland icecap has died at the age of 88.

Willi Dansgaard, who worked as a paleoclimatologist at the Niels Bohr Institute in the University of Copenhagen, passed away in the Danish capital on January 8, the institute this week revealed.

Dansgaard’s work on ice cores from Greenland revolutionised the study of the world’s temperature and atmospheric composition, and became a cornerstone of the quest for knowledge about climate change. The process of removing large columns of ice allowed scientists to gather information on weather patterns from 150,000 years ago.

The Greenland ice sheet was found to contain distinctive layers formed by summer melting and winter freezing over the millennia. By analysing the various oxygen isotopes found in the samples, Dansgaard was able to demonstrate how the planet’s climate history could be deduced.

Dansgaard was part of the first team to carry out scientific ice core drilling in South Greenland in 1979 and later undertook expeditions to Antarctica and Norway.

He was born in Copenhagen and educated at the city’s university, where he received a doctorate in physics and spent his subsequent career.

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