Climatology: The Iceman

As the globe warms, Lonnie Thompson is climbing the world's high peaks to retrieve ancient ice before it melts away

Not so long ago, Ohio State University glaciologist Lonnie Thompson was standing on the summit of East Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro, watching his drilling team bring up a cylindrical core of ice. With eyes honed by a quarter-century of experience, he saw immediately that the core's glassy surface was riddled with holes--not the little round holes formed by trapped air bubbles but gaping conduits that could have been excavated only by running water. It was not an encouraging sign.

Indeed, the holes confirmed what Thompson already strongly suspected--that the snow-clad ice fields of Kilimanjaro, immortalized by Ernest Hemingway as "great, high and...

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