Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Alley, Richard B.
Location The Pennsylvania State University
Primary Field Geophysics
Secondary Field Geology
 Election Citation
Alley's contributions to glaciology and paleoclimatology include his specialty in ice flow physics and his studies in ice core geochemistry, ocean circulation, and abrupt climate shifts. His research has underpinned evidence for instabilities in ice sheets and large-scale rapid changes in global climate.
 Research Interests
As a glaciologist, I have helped understand the climate records in ice cores, the potential for ice-sheet flow changes to affect sea level, and the influence of glaciation on landscapes. Through study of ice-core physical properties and processes, I contributed to improved annual-layer dating of the ice cores. We combined the accurate ages with flow modeling to estimate accumulation-rate histories, and used these to correct chemical records for changing dilution, and to combine borehole temperatures and isotopic data for paleothermometry. The improved confidence in ice-core paleoclimatology helped demonstrate the reality of large, widespread, abrupt climate changes, which were subsequently defined and interpreted by the National Research Council committee I chaired. Concerning ice flow, our interpretation and modeling of geophysical data identified water-saturated till as the most effective lubricant for ice streams. Our recent and ongoing work on ice-shelf buttressing of ice streams, sedimentary stabilization of grounding lines, iceberg calving, meltwater penetration of ice sheets, and related topics contributes to the understanding needed to predict ice-sheet changes, while our studies of supercooling of subglacial waters identified a key stabilizing feedback for glacier-valley profiles affecting mountain-belt evolution. In addition, I have aided policymakers and the public in assessing and publicizing these results.

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