Bryson Reid 1920

REID BRYSON IS an American atmospheric scientist, geologist, meteorologist, and emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. At Wisconsin, he founded the Department of Meteorology, the Center for Climatic Research, and helped found the Institute for Environmental Studies, which he directed 197085. According to the British Institute of Geographers, Bryson is the most often quoted climatologist in the world. Throughout his long career, he has advanced general understanding of climate, linking it with human ecology. He has focused on anthropogenic climate changes (changes generated by human interventions) and has also dealt with paleoclimatology, which seeks to understand ancient weather patterns.

Bryson is perhaps most famous for his statement that global warming is not the result of human actions, which has sparked controversy even within his own department. He served on the council of the Smithsonian Institution and has written five books. He is a member of the United Nations' Global 500 Roll of Honor in which scientists are included for their outstand ing achievements in the protection and improvement of the environment. In addition to his distinguished career as a scientist, Bryson is also a published poet, and his scientific book Climates of Hunger has won the Banta Medal for Literary Achievement, a prestigious literary award.

Born in Michigan in 1920, he received his B.A. degree in geology at Denison University in 1941, and obtained his Ph.D. in meteorology at the University of Chicago in 1948, the 30th in meteorological doctorate awarded in the United States. Before completing his postgraduate degree, Bryson had already developed an interest in climatology serving as a major in the Air Weather Service of the U.S. Army Air Corps. In this capacity, he prepared the weather forecast for the homeward journey of the Enola Gay.

He joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1946 and was hired by the departments of Geography and Geology. In 1948 he was the founding chairman of the Department of Meteorology, now known as the Department of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. Because his wide-ranging academic interests also included disciplines such as history and archeology, Bryson soon shifted the department's research in an interdisciplinary direction. He retired in 1985, but has continued to be an active researcher.

Bryson's research does not look only into the short-range phenomena that make up the weather, but also into climatic patterns over the millennia. He has also been fascinated by inherently unobservable predictions and discoveries. He worked out past climates from analysis of ancient tree rings. He came to the conclusion that arid parts of India had previously been much wetter through an analysis of primordial pollen gains. Consequently, he devised a system of land use that helped reduce the overgrazing that had caused the dryness.

Bryson has developed new approaches to climatology, such as air-stream analysis and quantitative, objective methods of recreating past climates. He has also pioneered the use of computers to study longrange climatic changes, setting up computer models concerning such topics as the past history of the monsoon in Rajasthan, model simulation of Pleistocene ice volume, and Pleistocene climatic history.

Bryson's role in contemporary debates on global warming is controversial. Although in the 1960s he was one of the first to point out the impact of human action on climate change, in 2000 the scientist claimed that the role of humans in shaping climate was minimal. Bryson claims that there is little evidence that humans and carbon dioxide (CO2) cause global warming. According to Bryson, the Earth has been constantly warming up in the past centuries, even when the emission of CO2 was extremely low. The phenomenon of global warming is, thus, due to emergence from an ice age.

In addition, Bryson argues that the data used for computer predictions about future climate overemphasize the role of CO2 and do not account for the effects of clouds (water vapor) in absorbing radiation coming from the Earth. To Bryson, whose positions on the subject have made him a controversial figure in the scientific establishment, global warming is just a commercial concern for contemporary researchers seeking funding for their projects. He has described Al Gore's Academy Award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, as untrue and unscientific, going as far as saying, in his characteristically contentious style, that it made him throw up.

The scientific community has challenged Bryson's conclusions on global warming, pointing out that his argument is based on incorrect data and personal attacks against other climatologists. For example, his claim that humans have not produced much CO2 in the past 300 years is countered by the fact that, from 1750 to 2005, atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 35 percent. CO2 emissions, scientists predict, will at least double this century, barring a switch away from fossil fuels. Moreover, climate models and paleoclimatic data show that the CO2 effect on climate is not marginal, especially when amplified by positive feedbacks in the climate system.

SEE ALSO: An Inconvenient Truth; Carbon Emissions; Global Warming; History of Climatology; Paleo-Climates.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. R.A. Bryson, "The Discovery of the Jet Stream," Wisconsin Academy Review (Summer 1994); R.A. Bryson, "The Paradigm of Climatology: An Essay," Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (v.78/3, 1997); R.A. Bryson and T.J. Murray, Climates of Hunger: Mankind and the World's Changing Weather (University of Wisconsin Press, 1977); R.A. Bryson et al., "Radiocarbon Isochrones on the Disintegration of the Laurentide Ice Sheet," Arctic and Alpine Research (v.1/1, 1969); R.A. Bryson, H.H. Lamb, and

D.L. Donley, "Drought and the Decline of Mycenae," Antiquity (v.XLVIII, 1974); R.A. Bryson, W.N. Irving, and J.A. Larsen, "Radiocarbon and Soils Evidence of Former Forest in the Southern Canadian Tundra," Science (v.147/3653, 1965).

Luca Prono University of Nottingham

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