| Profile cnrs I international w 16 magazine Climatology Renowned climate specialist Jean Jouzel has become the first French laureate of the Vetlesen Prize, the most prestigious award in the Earth sciences. Jean Jouzel, Climate Historian BY denis delbec“Immediately after graduating from the ESCIL1 school of industrial chemistry in Lyon, back in 1968, a manufacturing company qoffered me a job,” Jean Jouzel recalls. “If I had accepted it, I might be making soap today!” Fortunately, he decided to pursue a research career instead. Today, his work has brought him international acclaim, and earned him the honor of becoming the first French laureate of the Vetlesen Prize, considered the “Nobel” of the Earth sciences. Now 66, this paleoclimatologist at the LSCE2 in Gif-sur- Yvette is as keen as ever. His passion still drives him to delve ever deeper into the past to determine the Earth’s climate in ages gone by. The EPICA program (European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica), which he led from 1995 to 2001, set out to reconstruct some 800,000 years of climate history by drilling into the Antarctic ice cap to a depth of 3270 meters. “It was in recognition of this collaboration, whose findings were published in 2007, that the Vetlesen Foundation awarded me its prize,” Jouzel explains. CLIMATE mem ories Prior to the EPICA program, Jouzel was already well known in his field. Working with glaciologist Claude Lorius, he had gone further back in climate history than anyone before by examining ice cores from the Vostok Russian station in Antarctica. “Whereas previous drillings only went back to the last Ice Age, less than 100,000 years ago, by 1985 we had compiled climate archives covering 150,000 years, and ultimately extended that to 420,000 years,” Jouzel reports. For their efforts, the two researchers were awarded the CNRS Gold Medal in 2002. Collaboration with Lorius dates back to Jouzel’s dissertation— a study of the formation of hailstones based on the measurement of different forms of hydrogen, which he led at the CEA in Saclay. After earning his doctorate in 1974, Jouzel was hired there as a research engineer. “Claude didn’t have a laboratory,” he recalls, “so he came to Saclay to do his measurements.” At the time, Lorius was studying the levels of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes in ice samples from Antarctica. He then joined © BALTEL/SIPA .is otopeS. Chemical elements having the same atomic number (number of protons) but a different atomic mass (number of neutrons).
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