Start A Petition

Who Discovered These 5 Environmental Nightmares?

Science & Tech  (tags: climate, animals, climate-change, climatechange, CO2emissions, conservation, destruction, ecosystems, endangered, environment, globalwarming, greenhousegases, healthconditions, habitatdestruction, pollution, humans, nature, oceans, protection, Sustainabil )

- 1790 days ago -
Meet the modern-day Einsteins credited with identifying acid rain, global warming, dead zones, ozone holes, and plastic garbage patches.

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.


JL A (281)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 5:56 pm
Who Discovered These 5 Environmental Nightmares?

Meet the modern-day Einsteins credited with identifying acid rain, global warming, dead zones, ozone holes, and plastic garbage patches.

May 21, 2013

Jon Bowermaster

A six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, Jon writes about all things ocean.

Full Bio

When factories dump fertilizer into the sea, they create dead zones, where no fish can survive. (Photo: Ho New/Reuters)

New scientific discoveries are made everyday, from the grandiose (during missions to Mars) to the bizarre (male bicep size relates to political beliefs).

It dawned on me when I read the obituary this past weekend of British researcher Joseph Farman—credited with discovering the ozone hole over Antarctica—that even the planet’s worst environmental nightmares have founders, some researcher who was first to identify them and bring them to the public’s attention.

Farmer’s discovery of a hole in the ozone the size of the United States was a surprise even to him. During a 25-year career with the British Antarctic Survey studying Antarctica’s atmosphere, he never anticipated that his dedication to research would turn him into a working-class hero among scientists.

His findings, published in Nature in 1985, showed that ozone levels over Antarctica had fallen by about 40 percent from 1975 to 1984. The paper, published with colleagues, was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1995 and led to the Montreal Protocol first signed in 1987 and since ratified by 200 countries, which was intended to phase-out ozone-destroying chemicals (primarily chlorofluorocarbons used in spray cans and refrigeration.) Former secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Anan called it “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date.”

Here are four other eco-nightmares, and the scientist that discovered them:

Global Warming: Wallace Smith Broecker (1931-2007) gets credit for discovering what has become the most serious environmental challenge facing mankind. In August 1975 he published a paper in Science titled “Are We On the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” Previously the warming trend being noticed by climate scientists had been referred to as “inadvertent climate modification.” Broecker dismissed the use of the word “modification” because it suggested the future climate could go either way, hotter or colder. He was convinced the planet was going to warm, period. (Recently-retired NASA scientist James Hansen gets credit for popularizing the term when he used it in 1988 Congressional testimony.)

Acid Rain: F. Herbert Bormann (1922-2012) was the first to document the impacts of increased levels of sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxide in the air thanks to smokestack pollution falling on plants, fish and bodies of water. In 1971, the Yale and Dartmouth ecologist was conducting research in forests of New Hampshire when he discovered high rates of acid in local waterways. Tests showed that acidity up and down the East Coast had risen by up to 1,000 percent since the 1950s. In 1990, Congress enacted the Clean Air Act—chief among its goals was reducing sulfur dioxide emissions from companies and power plants. Bormann testified at the hearings that created the new law.

Earth: Your Fragile Planet (PHOTOS)

Dead Zones: The reality is that teams make most scientific discoveries, which is the case with the first dead zone identified growing in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Often cited as being the “size of Texas,” this “hypoxic zone”—created by nitrous and phosphorous running into the Mississippi from farming operations—is most closely identified with Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium executive director, marine ecologist and MacArthur grantee Nancy Rabalais, who since the mid-1980s has led long-term monitoring efforts in the Gulf. Dead zones were first noticed in the 1970s, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Black Sea, but the link to what was causing them wasn’t made until the Gulf of Mexico studies in which Rabalais led. Today, it’s estimated there are more than 500 such dead zones growing at the mouths of rivers and estuaries around the globe.

Plastic Garbage Patches: California marine biologist Captain Charles Moore is credited with alerting the world to the growing problem of those sizable patches of plastic waste swirling around ocean gyres. In 1997, while returning to southern California after a sailing race to Hawaii, he caught sight of trash floating in one of the most remote regions of the ocean. The floating junk heap was labeled “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch” by a colleague and despite Moore’s efforts to suggest different metaphors—“a swirling sewer,” “superhighway of trash”—it has stuck. Today, five similar trash-filled gyres have been identified in varied parts of the planet’s one ocean. Moore and his Algalita Foundation continue to sail the Pacific, looking for more junk and solutions to the growing contamination.

Past Member (0)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 3:32 am
Well its good they did otherwise we may have already been farther along the destruction road

Noted thanks

Sonali G (0)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 4:32 am
The question is, is it "too little too late" as one of the local shop owners keeps quoting?

mary ann s (35)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 5:18 am
Interesting; thank you.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 6:23 am
Educational little piece, thanks JL.(guess that's a typo there and "Farmer" means "Farman" or vv)
Amazing that for some the knowledge obviously stopped at 1975 level, still insisting on"inadvertent climate modification.” (examples in both C2 and congress)

Kerrie G (116)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 6:26 am
Noted, thanks.

JL A (281)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 7:34 am
You are welcome Carol, Mary ann, Angelika and Kerrie.

Michael O (176)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 8:01 am
We should all be thankful for these individuals who have warned us of the dangers of what we are doing to the Earth. We can heed their warnings and act or continue to stick our heads in the sand. The choice is ours.

JL A (281)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 8:06 am
You cannot currently send a star to Michael because you have done so within the last day.

Kit B (276)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 9:39 am

Each of these five and many more not mentioned have contributed significantly to store of human knowledge. The trail blazers are often forgotten as years pass by, these deserve to be remembered, if only we had done so sooner. People reacted quickly and with a social conscience to the Ozone hole, somehow there seemed no need to make that a political issue. Now everything is a political issue, and a matter of argument and far too much discussion. There is so much profit motive to allow things to just stay as they are, one must wonder if these corporations have run out of imagination. Companies once took on a challenge like climate change and tried to make a profit from leading the new paths.

JL A (281)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 9:42 am
You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.

. (0)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 12:41 pm

Theodore Shayne (56)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 1:52 pm

Lois Jordan (63)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 2:08 pm
Thanks, JL. This is all new to me; great background info.
Today an article at RSN, "The Denial of Science" (authors: Ajit Varki, Danny Brower), listed alternative sensible approaches to helping curb climate disruption. Quite simply, there are 4:
Cut emissions of black carbon, a component of soot.
Cut methane, a component of natural gas.
Cut lower level ozone, a main ingredient of urban smog.
Cut hydrocarbons (HFC's), which are used as coolants.

These account for as much as 40% of the current warming and are short-lived in the atmosphere. Article states these "will disappear in a matter of a few weeks to decades." (I believe this is also linked at Salon).

JL A (281)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 2:50 pm
You are welcome Lois. You cannot currently send a star to Lois because you have done so within the last day.

Lisa Zilli (17)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 5:51 pm
I think multiple people proved global warming. Keeling actually measured the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in Mauna Loa. This was the first actual evidence of global warming.

JL A (281)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 6:00 pm
True--many went on to gather proof, like Keeling, after Broeker published in 1975 Lisa.

Joanne Dixon (38)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 9:10 pm
Unfortunately the choice is NOT ours. The choice is being made over our heads by the wealthy and the oil companies (if that's not a tautology). If the choice were ours we would make a better one.

Past Member (0)
Monday May 27, 2013, 5:20 am
Act now for our future and other living lives

Birgit W (160)
Monday May 27, 2013, 5:35 am
I guess we are all kind of guilty, because our politicians and corporations made it that way, and we kind of had to follow. But at least we are finally realizing that we are killing our own planet, and are trying to stop it.

Walker E (45)
Monday May 27, 2013, 6:20 am
Noted and shared!

JL A (281)
Monday May 27, 2013, 7:00 am
You cannot currently send a star to Fi because you have done so within the last day.

Ann B (60)
Monday May 27, 2013, 7:02 am

Kathleen R (138)
Thursday May 30, 2013, 4:35 pm
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story

Loading Noted By...Please Wait


butterfly credits on the news network

  • credits for vetting a newly submitted story
  • credits for vetting any other story
  • credits for leaving a comment
learn more

Most Active Today in Science & Tech

Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.

New to Care2? Start Here.