January 14, 2008

Event to focus on human element of climate change

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The human element of climate change – both what humans have done to cause climate change and how climate changes will affect humans – is a, pardon the pun, hot topic in environmental circles. Jane Adams, anthropologist and historian at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, will present a symposium addressing the topic from an historical perspective.

The symposium, "Changing Climates: Evidence of Long-Term Trends and Their Social Consequences," will bring together experts to address the nature of these climate changes, what we know about them, and what climate change really means for us. Speakers and panelists will address climate change over thousands of years, rather that focusing only on the most recent, most industrialized century.

The symposium is from noon to 3 p.m. on Feb. 7 in the Student Health Center Auditorium. It is free and open to the public.

T. R. Kidder, professor of archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis, is the keynote speaker. His topic is, "'Big-Picture' Climate Change – 6,000 Years in the Mississippi Valley." Kidder recently turned his scholarship to climate history, particularly focusing on Mississippi River Valley. His research leads him to hypothesize that global climate change from about 1200 to 400 B.C. affected populations throughout eastern North America. In the Mississippi Valley, that climate change may have included a catastrophic flood. For more information about Kidder, see his profile at www.wustl.edu.

Four other scholars make up a panel of experts. Brian Butler, director of the Center for Archaeological Investigation and professor of anthropology at SIUC, will discuss the "Effects of Midwestern Warming in the Hypsothermal of 4000 to 2000 B.C. on Social Organization." Butler specializes in early horticultural societies, particularly in Southern Illinois and the lower Ohio Valley. He also researches settlement and coastal ecology in the Mariana Islands and Palau in the western Pacific.

Matthew D. Therrell, assistant professor of geography and environmental resources at SIUC, will talk about "Tree Ring Evidence for Climate Change." Therrell's expertise is tree-ring chronology, which he applies to the studies of paleoclimatology, biogeography and landscape ecology and archaeology.

Justin Schoof, assistant professor of geography and environmental resources at SIUC, will present "Modeling Climate Change." Schoof's research includes climatological methods, and statistical applications in climatology.

Kenneth E. Kunkel of the Illinois Water Survey will discuss "Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate: An Advance Report of the NOAA Climate Change Science Program Working Groups." Kunkel joined the Illinois Water Survey in 1988, and is a past director of the Midwestern Regional Climate Center and past director of the Office of Applied Climatology. Now he is the head of the Atmospheric Environment Section, which researches various factors relating to climate variability and change.