Wallace Smith Broecker, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University in New York, died on Monday, Feb. 18, at the age of 87. Broecker was born in Chicago and grew up in Oak Park. An Oak Park and River Forest High School graduate, he was awarded his alma mater’s highest honor, the Tradition of Excellence Award, in 1997. According to his obituary in the Associated Press, Broecker was known as the “Grandfather of Climate Science” and the “Dean of Climate Scientists.”

After joining the faculty of Columbia University in 1959, he “brought ‘global warming’ into common use with a 1975 article that correctly predicted rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would lead to pronounced warming,” according to the AP obituary. In an interview with the AP in 1997, Broecker said, “We live in a climate system that can jump abruptly from one state to another. We are conducting an experiment that could have devastating effects. We’re playing with an angry beast — a climate system that has been shown to be very sensitive.”

Ken Trainor

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