Peter Huybers

Current Position: 

Professor, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University
Ziff Environmental Fellow: 2006-2007

Faculty Host: 

Peter Huybers is an expert in ice ages and global climate change. He received his PhD in climate physics and chemistry from MIT in 2004 and received a prestigious NOAA Postdoctoral Fellowship in climate and global change to continue his work at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Geology and Geophysics Department. Peter received his BS in physics from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1996. His subsequent military career included testing technologies to reduce fratricide at the Mounted Warfare Testbed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and training and leading a tank platoon as part of peace-keeping operations in Bosnia. He then taught high school physics in New Orleans for a year before receiving a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship and starting his graduate studies at MIT. Peter's thesis, “On the Origins of Ice Ages: Insolation Forcing, Age Models, and Nonlinear Climate Change,” won the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Prize as the best PhD thesis completed in 2004 in MIT's Program in Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate Change.

Peter has published his work in Nature, Geophysical Research Letters, Quarternary Science Reviews, Paleoceanography and the Journal of Physical Oceanography. Peter has been an occasional guest lecturer on statistical and paleoclimate topics at MIT and Woods Hole, and taught a course on abrupt climate change at MIT in 2005. He has also been active as a member of the Cambridge Climate Advisory Committee and the American Geophysical Union.

As an Environmental Fellow at Harvard, Peter worked with Professor Eli Tziperman of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (himself a Rossby Prize winner in 1987) and the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Peter worked to solve a problem that has intrigued climate scientists for decades: glacial cycles in the Pleistocene. The work is relevant to contemporary questions of how glaciers respond to climate change. “I proposed to build an icesheet-climate model having a realistic representation of the thermodynamic affects on ice rheology. This model will permit novel exploration of the interactions between insolation, climate, and ice-sheet processes including atmospheric and geothermal heating, basal melting, and temperature dependent viscosity and will give insight into the mechanisms controlling glacial sensitivity to shifts in insolation. Through further observational analysis and modeling an understanding of the climate feedbacks which give rise to the 100,000-year glacial variability appears to be within reach. Given recent progress and the clear avenues for future work, solving the Pleistocene glacial cycle problem is not an implausible goal.”

Peter is currently a Professor in the Harvard University Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Email: huce@environment.harvard.edu
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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