The 2,404th Meeting of the Society

February 22, 2019 at 8:00 PM

Powell Auditorium at the Cosmos Club

Satellites, Dinosaurs, Milankovitch Cycles, and Cretaceous Earth

Compton J. Tucker

Senior Scientist, Earth Sciences Division
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

About the Lecture

Earth-orbiting satellites have revolutionized the understanding of Earth’s coupled ocean-land-atmosphere system.  They have advanced numerical weather prediction and enabled a quantitative understanding of climate processes.  The speaker will review our unprecedented understanding of the Earth system made possible by satellite geophysical observations, contrast current climate with that of the Cretaceous Period, show the importance of plate tectonics to the Milankovitch Cycles, and show our trajectory is headed back to a Cretaceous-like climate. 

About the Speaker

Compton J. Tucker is NASA Scientist in the Earth Sciences Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.  He also is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Maryland and Consulting Scholar with the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Compton specializes in studying the earth with satellite data.  He was among the first researchers to employ coarse-resolution satellite data and satellite data time series to study global photosynthesis on land.  He pioneered their use to measure vegetative land cover, monitor droughts, provide famine early warnings, predict ecologically-coupled disease outbreaks, and document increased photosynthesis at higher northern latitudes resulting from warmer temperatures.  He also pioneered the use of very large Landsat datasets to study forest conditions, and to measure deforestation, and forest fragmentation in temperate, subtropical, and tropical forests. And he has used satellite data to study tropical glaciers in the Andes and temperate glaciers in Asia Minor.  In addition to working with satellite data, he has extensive experience conducting geophysical archaeological surveys at Troy, Granicus, and Gordion in Turkey.

Compton is an author on more than 190 journal articles. Publications on which he is an author as of January 2019 have been cited 30,000 times by Web of Science and 61,000 times by Google Scholar.

Among other honors, Compton has been awarded NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal; the Henry Shaw Medal from the Missouri Botanical Garden; the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement; the William Nordberg Memorial Award for Earth Science; the William T. Pecora Award from the U.S. Geological Survey; the Galathea Medal from the Royal Danish Geographical Society; and the Vega Medal from the Svenska Sällskapet för Antropologi och Geografi.  He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Compton earned an MS and PhD in Forest Science at Colorado State University.