The 2006 Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky Medal is awarded to Claude Lorius for his outstanding achievements in advancing knowledge of past climates and atmospheric composition by the study of Antarctic ice cores and the bubbles of air entrapped in them.
Claude Lorius was born in 1932 and obtained his doctorate in 1962. He has taken part in more than 20 expeditions to the polar regions, primarily to Antarctica. He is distinguished by his ability to organise internationally co-operating teams, for example in the drilling of the Vostok core in which Russian, French and American scientists worked together in interdisciplinary teams to recover ice cores. We owe to Claude Lorius the insight that the air trapped in old ice cores might contain a record of the composition of the atmosphere in the past. Subsequently, the international and interdisciplinary work that he inspired has led to the realization that over periods of hundreds of thousands of years, the climate and the biogeochemical cycles of the planet are synchronized together as two parts of a single “Earth system”. The discovery by Lorius and his associates of the systematic changes in atmospheric composition that accompanied the Quaternary glacial cycles ranks as one of the outstanding achievements in global biogeochemistry during the 20th century”.
The ice core evidence that the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide is closely linked to Earth’s climate has been fundamental to the present concern of the scientific community over the consequences of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide due to human activity. Lorius was one of the first scientists to recognize this threat and to warn of the potential threat that human activities pose to the Earth system.
Claude Lorius was a founding director of the Laboratoire de glaciologie geophysique de l’environnement in Grenoble from 1983 to 1988, and subsequently Director Emeritus of research at CNRS. He is a recipient of many prizes and honours, among them the Tyler Prize for the environment (1996), the Balzan Prize for climatology (2001), The CNRS Medaille d’Or (2002: jointly with Jean Jouzel). He is a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences since 1994.
The Vladimir Vernadsky medal committee has nominated Prof. Claude Lorius for his outstanding achievements in advancing knowledge of past climates and atmospheric composition by the study of Antarctic ice cores and the bubbles of air entrapped in them.