150 years of understanding Greenhouse gases- Climate Change Lecture and Tyndall Conference 2011, Dublin

Date released: Sep 26 2011

150 years of understanding Greenhouse gases – Climate Change Lecture and Tyndall Conference 2011, Dublin

The scientific discovery of Greenhouse gases is 150 years old this year. John Tyndall, originally from Co. Carlow in Ireland, published his breakthrough paper in 1861.  It identified the critical role of these gases in maintaining the earth’s temperature thereby solving one of the great scientific questions of the time “Why was the earth so warm?”  In the subsequent 150 years the instruments and techniques he invented have given rise to new branches of science.  

More recently, greenhouse gases have become synonymous with global warming and with concerns about climate change due to the enhanced atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.   These increases are largely due to human activities.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Tyndall’s ground breaking work, two major events will take place this week: a Climate Change public lecture in the Mansion House on Tuesday evening, 27th, and a three-day conference in Dublin Castle from 28th -30th September.
Laura Burke, Director of the EPA’s Office of Climate Change said,

“John Tyndall’s work resonates strongly today in a world where we know that enhanced greenhouse warming is a major global challenge.  We also know that failure to act on reducing emissions will be more costly than taking action and that to successfully reduce or avoid these costs requires a well structured and coordinated strategy coupled with effective implementation. Science, research and innovation are central to solving the challenges of climate change.

“It is an honour for the EPA to be associated with two events this week highlighting the work of John Tyndall, a great Irish scientist on the 150th anniversary of the publication of his breakthrough paper on Greenhouse gases”.

EPA Climate Change Lecture Series: Tuesday 27th September

Professor Richard Somerville, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California will speak about John Tyndall: his work and scientific heritage in a lectured titled “From Carlow to here: 150 Years of Greenhouse Gases” in the Mansion House on the evening of the 27th of September.  Professor Somerville, an expert meteorologist, will speak of the tremendous debt modern society owes to Tyndall’s pioneering work in many of the physical sciences, but most notably climate science.  Professor Somerville is a world renowned climate scientist and scientific writer.


Tyndall Conference, 28th – 30th September

Tuesday evening’s lecture precedes a major conference to celebrate Tyndall’s scientific legacy being organised by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency and the Royal Irish Academy.  It takes place in Dublin Castle from 28th to 30th September.  The conference will be attended by leading radiation and climate scientists.  It will hear presentations from the heads of the Tyndall Institute in University College Cork and the Tyndall Centre based in Norwich, England.

The conference will be attended by representatives from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

Professor Luke Drury, President of the Royal Irish Academy, said,

“This conference shows what a major figure of science John Tyndall was, in the 19th Century, and the importance and originality of his work.  Even with two major centres named after him his work remains relatively unknown in Ireland and internationally. Hopefully, this Conference will redress this”.

The actual instrument constructed and used by Tyndall in his experiments on atmospheric absorption of heat will be on display at the conference, along with rare historic documents. The British Institute has kindly made this exhibit available for the duration of the conference. 

The conference will explore the robust body of scientific work that exists on greenhouse gases.  It will examine the science on Global Warming Potentials, the metric used to compare various greenhouse gases. It will also include analysis of observations from Mace Head on Galway’s Atlantic Coast and satellite observations from space by the European Space Agency (ESA). 

The conference will also consider climate feedback issues. These may finally determine how the Earth responds to human enhancement of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

Editor’s notes:

John Tyndall’s paper was published in 1861. Entitled "On the Absorption and Radiation of Heat by Gases and Vapours, and on the Physical Connexion of Radiation, Absorption, and Conduction", It identified carbon dioxide and water vapour as key components of the atmosphere which trap radiant heat energy in the Earth’s climate systems.

Instrumentation derived from John Tyndall’s work includes sensors used to study the hidden world of infra-red radiation and the transmission of light.

The conference will be attended by leading international climate scientists including: Richard Somerville, US, Jean Pascal van Ypersele, IPCC Vice Chair, Keith Shine and John Mitchell, UK, Ray Bates, Ireland and many others. 

Continuation of EPA Public Climate Change Lecture Series

Preceding the conference, on the 27th of September, the EPA continues its popular public climate change lecture series at the Mansion House, Dublin. This lecture, the fourteenth in the series will be presented by Professor Richard Somerville, USA. Professor Somerville has written on the communication of environment issues, including Climate Change. His book “The Forgiving Air- Understanding Environmental Change” is widely regarded as a benchmark for clear and accessible communication of complex environmental issues. 

Further information: Annette Cahalane/Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)