Richard Alley’s Orbital and Climate DanceBy Andrew C. Revkin
Imagine a cross between Woody Allen and Carl Sagan and you come somewhat close to capturing the style of Richard Alley, a Penn State glaciologist and expert on Earth’s past climate cycles who has spent years trying out new ways to captivate students and the public with the science and significance of climate change.
He imitates Johnny Cash to describe the planet’s cycles. His book, “The Two-Mile Time Machine,” is a fascinating account of how scientists have learned to use ice as a history book of climatic and atmospheric changes — and what Greenland has revealed about times when climate jogged abruptly.
He also dances. In the short video above, Dr. Alley explains how some patterns in the changes that occur during Earth’s ice ages and warm intervals (like the last 11,000 years) prove that greenhouse gases exert a warming effect. They don’t trigger the warmups or chills, but the gases explain why some climatic changes are global (the gases mix uniformly around the planet) while others are not.The video was taken in Chicago last year during a workshop for science teachers held as part of Polar-Palooza, a traveling road show in which field scientists and Arctic residents explain what’s going on at both ends of the planet. Their next stop, this weekend, is Manhattan, with one appearance at The New York Times’s auditorium on Saturday and another Sunday at the American Museum of Natural History Sunday.