“Glaciers are the planet’s early warning system”: Ellen Mosley-Thompson and Lonnie Thompson win BBVA Climate Change Award

This year's recipients of the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Climate Change Category are Prof. Ellen Mosley-Thompson and Prof. Lonnie Thompson who are both paleoclimatologists at Ohio State University. The jury recognized the two laureates „ for advancing the knowledge and understanding of past and current climate change through persistent, dedicated ice‐core research in the vanishing high mountain glaciers of the tropics and mid latitudes“. Their glacier ice studies show that our climate is changing at unprecedented speed. The laureates were announced by Prof. Bjorn Stevens, award jury president and director at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, on 12 January 2022.

Credit: Ohio State University

The Thompsons have painstakingly obtained data through an impressive set of 78 expeditions to high-altitude regions in the Andes, the Himalayas and Kilimanjaro. These have enriched the interpretation of climate change from global ice core records, and documented tropical climatic variability and its impacts on ecosystems and societies.
“Glaciers,” explains Lonnie Thompson, “serve both as recorders of the past climate and indicators of today’s. In the bubbles of their ice we have the history of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide – all the gases we are concerned about for the next 100 years.”

The award committee states: “The ice cores obtained by the Thompsons and their local collaborators over the last half century have been drawn from sites likely never to be visited again and as such have become part of our natural and cultural heritage. Their research bears witness to the rapid loss of high mountain glaciers and its consequences.”

About the BBVA Foundation and the Frontiers of Knowledge Awards
The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards were established in 2008 to recognize outstanding contributions in a range of scientific, technological and artistic areas, and knowledge-based responses to the central challenges of the 21st century. The main objectives of the BBVA Foundation are the promotion of scientific knowledge and the transfer of it to society.


More information

Video of jury president Bjorn Stevens reading the citation
BBVA press release
About Ellen Mosley-Thompson
About Lonnie Thompson


Prof. Dr. Bjorn Stevens
Max Planck Institute for Meteorology
Email: bjorn.stevens@mpimet.mpg.de