Richard B. Alley

The Pennsylvania State University


Primary Section: 16, Geophysics
Secondary Section: 15, Geology
Membership Type: Member (elected 2008)

Biosketch

Dr. Richard Alley (PhD 1987, Geology, Wisconsin) is Evan Pugh University Professor of Geosciences at Penn State.  He studies the great ice sheets to help predict future changes in climate and sea level, and has made four trips to Antarctica, nine to Greenland, and more to Alaska and elsewhere.  He has been honored for research (including Foreign Membership in the Royal Society), teaching, and service.  Dr. Alley participated in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize), and has provided requested advice to numerous government officials in multiple administrations from both major political parties including a US Vice President, multiple Presidental Science Advisors, and committees and individual members of the US Senate and House of Representatives.  He has authored or coauthored over 300 refereed scientific papers.  He was presenter for the PBS TV miniseries on climate and energy Earth: The Operators’ Manual, and author of the book.  His popular account of climate change and ice cores, The Two-Mile Time Machine, was Phi Beta Kappa’s science book of the year.  Dr. Alley is happily married with two grown daughters, one stay-at-home cat, a bicycle, and a pair of soccer cleats.

Research Interests

Dr. Alley studies processes in glaciers and ice sheets, collaborating extensively.  His recent work focuses on the possibility of ice-sheet retreat by iceberg calving, leading to large, rapid sea-level rise.  He studies physical properties of ice cores and their importance in reconstructing paleoclimatic records and affecting ice deformation.  He also studies glacier beds, focusing both on ice flow and on formation and significance of erosional and depositional bedforms of glaciers. More broadly, he studies abrupt changes in the climate system.

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