RIP Claude Lorius: Antarctic Pioneer Discovered Earth’s Ancient Atmosphere in a Glass of Whiskey

April 7, 2023

One of the greatest stories of Antarctic exploration – late one night, exhausted after a days work on the still mostly unknown depths of southern polar ice – Claude Lorius famously chipped some ice from an Antarctic core into a glass of whiskey, and observed the fizzing and popping as trapped air bubbles melted and escaped. He reasoned, correctly, that the air bubbles represented micro samples of the ancient atmosphere trapped when that ice was first forming.z

One of science’s greatest eureka moments.
That insight lead to a revolution in scientific understanding of how changing atmospheric composition interacted with ice sheets and sea level in the past, and how it will affect us in the future.


Claude Lorius, a leading glaciologist whose expeditions helped prove that humans were responsible for global warming, has died at the age of 91.

He led 22 expeditions to Greenland and Antarctica during his lifetime.

It was during one trip to Antarctica in 1965 where an evening of whiskey with ice cubes led him to prove humankind’s role in the heating of the Earth’s surface.

Lorius died on Tuesday morning in the French region of Burgundy.

It was his love of adventure which set him on the path to identifying and predicting an impending catastrophe for the planet.

Decades later, Jason Box repeated the experiment for me in Greenland, at the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support facility.


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