Prof. Tomasz Goslar – Winner of the FNP Prize 2014
Professor Tomasz Goslar (b. 1958 in Koźle) is a physicist. He obtained his doctoral degree in 1990 at the AGH University of Science and Technology in Kraków, from which he also received his postdoctoral degree (1997). He worked at the Silesian University of Technology in 1981-2001. He has been conducting research at the Institute of Physics of Adam Mickiewicz University since 2001. He also heads the Poznań Radiocarbon Laboratory which he set up in 2001. This is a carbon dating centre, currently one of the biggest ones of its kind in the world. The laboratory’s analysis results are used in the work of earth sciences researchers and archaeologists from over a thousand scientific organizations in 50 countries around the world.
Professor Goslar is considered a world expert in research on the youngest Quaternary period that began 2.58 million years ago and continues to this day, and his greatest achievements are related to determining the chronology and mechanisms of past climate changes. He has published over 70 papers in journals from the Master Journal List.
Professor Tomasz Goslar received the FNP Prize 2014 in the life and earth sciences for his contribution to determining the chronology of changes in C14 carbon isotope concentration in the atmosphere during the last ice age, which is of key importance for contemporary climate research.
The FNP Prize recognizes the development of an innovative method of dating past climate changes, based on the analysis of varved lake sediments, and using it to determine the exact chronology of those changes during the last ice age.
Climate changes are among the greatest challenges civilization faces today. Due to their substantial impact on life on Earth, they are a subject not only of scientific discussion but also political and social debates. It is becoming increasingly urgent to identify the mechanisms causing such changes, which could enable us to estimate their impact on contemporary ecosystems. That is why it is so important to analyse rapid climate changes from the past. The last serious climate change in the Northern Hemisphere took place near the end of the last glacial period – called the ice age – during what is known as the Younger Dryas (ca. 12,800-11,700 years ago). This was a period of violent cooling lasting approximately 1,100 years, near the end of which there was an equally sudden warming. Professor Tomasz Goslar’s research contributes significantly to our understanding of this phase.
Determining the exact chronology was of key importance for understanding the course of climate changes in the Younger Dryas. The first attempts at dating the changes in this period were based on studying oceanic sediments and Greenland ice cores. None of these archives of nature, however, enabled the chronology of the period in question to be re-created accurately. Professor Goslar used an analysis of varved sediments in selected lakes for its determination. These sediments enable scientists to obtain a continuous absolute time scale and provide material from land vegetation whose age can be determined with the help of the C14 carbon isotope (radiocarbon). Professor Goslar was one of the leaders of a team investigating varved sediments of Lake Gościąż (Kujawy-Pomerania province) and, based on the results, was the first person to reconstruct the concentration of radiocarbon in the atmosphere during the Younger Dryas. This also enabled him to be the first person to accurately date the Younger Dryas and determine the rate of environmental changes at the start and near the end of this cooling.
The results of Professor Goslar’s interdisciplinary research and the new methodological solutions he has proposed are extremely important for future research, e.g. on the rate of ecosystem reaction to climate change. They also have a significant impact on many fields, to mention marine geology, paleoclimatology, heliophysics, paleobiology and climate modelling.