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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI Graduate School of Oceanography lecture provides a historical perspective of climate change

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Narragansett, R.I. -- June 3, 2004 -- While the Earth's climate has experienced some notable changes over the past two centuries, both the science of climate change and popular ideas about climate have undergone complete revolutions.

As part of the Vetlesen Distinguished Lecturer Series, the URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) is pleased to present “A Historian Looks at Climate Dynamics, Science Dynamics, and Technological Change,” by Dr. James R. Fleming, Technology and Society Program, Colby College, Waterville, Maine. The lecture will take place on Thursday, June 10, at 2 p.m. in Corless Auditorium, URI Bay Campus, Narragansett.

This presentation examines the dynamic nature of climate change from the late Enlightenment through the twentieth century. Two hundred years ago, near the end of the "little ice age," climate discourse was dominated by notions of environmental determinism.

A century ago, when the science of climatology was still in its infancy and global climate was a bit cooler than today, ideas and apprehensions about the climate were also radically different. Since theories of climate change have changed so dramatically--more dramatically than the climate itself—on decades-to-centuries time scales, students of climate dynamics should also become students of science dynamics.

The talk concludes with examples of technological change as a dynamic factor in climate history, both in the sense of the built environment, which mediates our perceptions of the weather, and in the sense of scientific instruments that alter our ability to monitor the climate.

Dr. Fleming is a historian of science and technology at Colby College. His teaching bridges the sciences and the humanities and his research interests involve the history of the geophysical sciences, especially meteorology, climatology, and oceanography. Fleming earned a B.S. in astronomy from Penn State University, an M.S. in atmospheric science from Colorado State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Princeton University.

Current projects include a book on the Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climate Change; a biography of G.S. Callendar, 1898-1964: Pioneer Scientist of Climate Warming; a popular book on Irving Langmuir and weather modification; and a major international conference on the history of meteorology in July 2004 in Polling, Germany.

The lecture is free and open to the public. For information call 874-6246.