For three decades, Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University has been monitoring the health of glaciers atop mountains from Peru to China . Skeptics initially doubted that he could retrieve meaningful data from these remote elevations. But he has, while also discovering that these millennia-old data-storage lockers are rapidly disappearing. Senior Editor Janet Raloff recently spoke with Thompson about what science is losing.
When did you first learn high-elevation glaciers were dying?
When we started our monitoring program in 1978, people typically described the movement of ice fields as slow — you know, glacial. But in the early ’90s during repeated visits to Peru ’s Quelccaya glacier, the larg