Dr Joel Pedro – Lead Project Scientist, Million Year Ice Core Project
Qualifications: 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 Division:
- Lead Project Scientist: Million Year Ice Core Project.
- Co-investigator AAS #4537: East Antarctic Synthesis of Ice cores (EASI) - Ice core records of continental, hemispheric and global variability and change.
- Co-Investigator: Did a previous collapse of the Antarctic Ice Sheet cause abrupt climate change in the Southern Hemisphere? Marsden Fund, New Zealand, 2018-onging.
- Co-Investigator: How do the Southern Westerly Winds respond to rapid climatic change? ARC Discovery Project, Australia, 2017–ongoing.
- Co-Investigator: Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition, Sub-Antarctic Ice Core Expedition (subICE), Australia, UK, US, Swiss, 2016–ongoing.
National & international collaborations
- University of Tasmania, Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies
- University of Queensland
- University of Melbourne
- University of Copenhagen, Niels Bohr Institute, Denmark
- Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
- University of Bergen, Norway
- Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Norway
- Instituto Portugues do Mar e da Atmosfera, Portugal
- Sorbonne Universit, France
- Australian Quaternary Association
- American Geophysical Union
- European Geophysical Union
Key outcome areas
- International Partnership in Ice Core Sciences (IPICS)
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
- International Quaternary Association (INQUA)
- Million Year Ice Core Project page
- Traverse capability at the core of ice research (Australian Antarctic Magazine 38: 2020)
- Testing times for new ice drill (7 June 2020)
- Million year ice core drill at the cutting edge (23 September 2019)
- Work begins on million year ice core drill (22 March 2019)
- Abrupt climate change events from the past could help predict the ones ahead. CORDIS Magazine 2017.
Pedro, J. B., M. Jochum, F. He, C. Buizert, S. Barker and S. O. Rasmussen. Invited review: Beyond the bipolar seesaw: Toward a process understanding of inter-hemispheric coupling, Quat. Sci. Rev., 192, 27–46, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2018.05.005
Buizert, C., M. Sigl, M. Severi, B. R. Markle, J. R. McConnell, J. B. Pedro, et al. The Southern Westerlies and Antarctic Climate during the Last Ice Age, Nature 563, 681-685, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0727-5,
Strugnell, J. M., Pedro, J. B., Wilson, N. G. Dating Antarctic ice sheet collapse: Proposing a molecular genetic approach, Quat. Sci. Rev., 179, 153–157, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2017.11.014
Markle, B. R., E. J. Steig, C. Buizert, S. W. Schonenman C. M. Bitz, T. J. Fudge, J. B. Pedro, Q. Ding, T. Jones, J. W. C. White and T. Sowers, Atmospheric teleconnections between the tropics and high southern latitudes during abrupt climate change, Nature Geosci., 10, 36–40, 2017 https://doi.org/doi:10.1038/ngeo2848
Pedro, J. B., H. C. Bostock, C. M. Bitz, F. He, M. J. Vandergoes, E. J. Steig, B. M. Chase, C. E. Krause, S. O. Rasmussen, B. R. Markle and G. Cortese, The spatial extent and dynamics of the Antarctic Cold Reversal, Nature Geosci., 9, 51-55, 2016a https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2580