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Edward J. Brook

Edward J. Brook
Edward J. Brook

The 2019 Hans Oeschger Medal is awarded to Edward J. Brook for producing greenhouse-gas records from polar ice cores in unprecedented resolution that permitted the precise north-south synchronisation of climate signals and the identification of past variations in great detail.

Edward Brook obtained his PhD in Chemical Oceanography from the MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1993. After a postdoctoral stay as a NOAA Research Fellow and later as a postdoctoral investigator at the University of Rhode Island from 1993 to 1996, he was appointed Assistant Professor at Washington State University in 1996. In 2004 he joined Oregon State University as an Associate Professor, where he was promoted to Full Professor in 2008, and recently Distinguished Professor at the College of Earth Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. Brook is an outstanding scientist who specialises in geochemistry applied to problems of Quaternary Earth history. In particular, he has built a world-renowned laboratory at Oregon State University that specialises in the analyses of greenhouse-gas concentrations and isotopic composition on samples from polar ice cores.

Brook has combined his scientific work with community leadership to retrieve from Antarctica, for the first time, an ice core covering the last glacial period with a resolution that is comparable to that in Greenland ice core records. This core from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has provided a new and unblurred view of the dynamics of abrupt climate change from the perspective of Antarctica and their imprint in the biogeochemical cycles of greenhouse gases. The significantly increased time resolution of the gas records enabled precise synchronisation with ice core records from Greenland. The high-resolution CO2 and CH4 records measured by Brook and colleagues allowed to identify processes acting on the global methane cycle previously not detectable and provided unrivaled constraints on the global methane budget over the last 2500 years. Moreover, these records resolved the long-standing problem of gas age uncertainty from which all previous, less resolved Antarctic ice cores are suffering. The two findings that local orbital forcing drives deglaciation, and that abrupt Greenland warming leads the cooling onset in Antarctica by about 200 years, constitute step changes in our knowledge about ice age climate variations. Brook was also instrumental in the project to drill pioneering horizontal ice cores, first in Greenland, and later on Taylor Glacier in Antarctica. Among others, this provided large samples that delivered a 13CO2 record with unprecedented precision over the last deglaciation which is key to quantitatively constrain the global carbon cycle during large climate changes. These are essential for a model-based understanding of the Earth System.

Edward Brook has been a visionary and key leader in the US Ice Drilling Program Office and served as Chair of its Senior Advisory Board for many years. His dedication and vision allowed to put the US ice core drilling effort on a new foundation and enable the community to design and successfully execute an ambitious ice core drilling program. Moreover, Brook is dedicated to advance the science beyond the national borders and played a critical role in the integration of the international ice core science community, serving as co-chair of the International Partnerships for Ice Core Sciences from its very start until 2017 and by serving in the Liaison and Advisory Group of the European ice core drilling project Beyond EPICA-Oldest Ice.