Monday 5 December 2016

How old lookout station from WWII era is leading the way in monitoring climate change

Frank McGovern

Published 24/09/2016 | 02:30

Dr Thomas O Connor from the School of Physics at NUI Galway, one of the first scientists to collect data at Mace Head pictured in 2008 with a piece of original equipment from 1958. Photo:Andrew Downes
Dr Thomas O Connor from the School of Physics at NUI Galway, one of the first scientists to collect data at Mace Head pictured in 2008 with a piece of original equipment from 1958. Photo:Andrew Downes

By all accounts, Charles Keeling did not accept consensus thinking, even from his academic research director. Ignoring the accepted wisdom, he headed to the Pacific islands of Hawaii. Not to the paradise island destination the name conjures up - instead, he went to the top of the 3,000m high Mauna Loa volcano with a special instrument designed to measure carbon dioxide.

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That was 1958, the International Geophysical Year, during which a thaw in the Cold War saw the start of global scientific exchanges in Earth sciences. The same year, Tom O'Connor set out from Galway city to find a site remote enough to study air coming in from the North Atlantic.

Tom graduated from a remarkable school of atmospheric science in UCD that flourished in the 1940s and '50s.

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