Dr Joel Pedro: BSc (Hons), PhD
I use natural archives (ice cores, marine sediments, speleothems) and model results to study Earth’s climate evolution on timescales spanning decades to millennia. My goal is to improve our understanding of how and why climate has changed in the past and to help us predict and prepare for how it may change in the future. A particular focus is testing hypotheses on the atmosphere, ocean and cryosphere interactions responsible for major past climate transitions such as the glacial/interglacial cycles.
In 2020 I was appointed to the role of Lead Project Scientist of the Australian Antarctic Division’s Million Year Ice Core Project (MYIC). The project aims to recover a continuous Antarctic ice core reaching beyond 1.2 million years into the past. This time period is significant because it will extend the ice core record, for the first time, across the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, during which the pacing of the ice ages slowed (from 41,000 to 100,000 year periodicity). Resolving the cause of this non-linear shift in the Earth's climate state is the major scientific motivation of the project. By greatly extending the detailed record of Earth’s climate history, the ice core will also place current changes in climate and greenhouse gas concentrations into a deeper context.
The project is one of the most ambitious Antarctic field projects ever undertaken by the Australian Antarctic Division. The drilling site has an elevation of over 3000 metres above sea level, and a mean annual temperature below -50°C. The drilling, measurement and interpretation of the MYIC, and the traverse and inland station infrastructure which enable it, are major deliverables of the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 year Action Plan. Drilling of the 2.8 kilometre ice core is scheduled to commence in 2021/22 and to be completed in 2025/26.
I also work on a number of other topics in Earth science:
- Constraining the spatial extent, timing and amplitudes of past abrupt climate change events.
- Testing how Southern Ocean heat and carbon dioxide uptake responded to past abrupt climate change.
- Recovering ice core records from sub-Antarctic and Antarctic islands for reconstructing wind and sea ice changes in the Southern Ocean.
- Investigating whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed during the Eemian using a 'genetic-clock' approach, in collaboration with benthic ecologists.
All of these topics contribute to questions of societal and environmental importance: How do past rates of climate change and their impacts on ecosystems compare to future projections? Can current rates of heat and CO2 uptake by the Southern Ocean be sustained? What are the thresholds for the stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet?
Before my appointment at the Australian Antarctic Division I held a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Niels Bohr Institute (University of Copenhagen) and JIASO Fellowship at the University of Washington (US). I received a PhD for my thesis ‘High Resolution Records of Climate Variability and Forcing’ from the University of Tasmania in 2012.
I hail from the Great Southern of Western Australia, where my family have been farmers for several generations.
Australian Antarctic Science projects:
- Million Year Ice Core Project, Lead Project Scientist
- #4537: East Antarctic Synthesis of Ice cores (EASI) - Ice core records of continental, hemispheric and global variability and change
- Did a previous collapse of the Antarctic Ice Sheet cause abrupt climate change in the Southern Hemisphere? Marsden Fund, New Zealand
- How do the Southern Westerly Winds respond to rapid climatic change? ARC Discovery Project, Australia
- Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition, Sub-Antarctic Ice Core Expedition (subICE), Australia, UK, US, Swiss