Glacier Expert Uses Aerosol Records in Ice Cores to Reconstruct History of Lead Pollution

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, executive assistant; tele: 413-597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., March 7, 2019—Joseph McConnell, a glaciologist at the Desert Research Institute, will discuss his most recent work on Greenland ice core samples at Williams College. McConnell believes the samples offer droves of information about how humans polluted the atmosphere from the late Iron Age through the Middle Age. The lecture will be held on Monday, March 11, at 4:15 p.m. in Wege Auditorium in the Thompson Chemistry building. The event is free and open to the public.

The ice cores develop a 1900-year, sub-annually resolved record of lead pollution in Greenland and estimated annual atmospheric emissions in Europe starting in 1100 B.C. Recently developed technology helps accurately date aerosol records of sea spray, windblown dust, biomass burning, volcanism, and industrial activity. In his lecture McConnell will go into how this unique pollution record was conceived, and how the lead emissions correspond to plagues, wars, political instability and economic expansion. Lastly, he will go in depth on the future and potential of aerosol record dating.

McConnell researches snow and global-scale hydrology, ice core and atmospheric chemistry, glaciology, and ice sheet mass balance, with particular emphasis on understanding the role of human activities in global climate and sea level change. He received his B.A. in geology and geophysics from Yale, and his Ph.D. in hydrology and water resources from the University of Arizona.


For building locations on the Williams campus, please consult the map outside the driveway entrance to the Security Office located in Hopkins Hall on Main Street (Rte. 2), next to the Thompson Memorial Chapel, or call the Office of Communications 413-597-4277. The map can also be found on the web at