School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences

Prof Roy Thompson FRSE

Professor Emeritus and Senior Honorary Professorial Fellow

Brief Biography

After graduating from Reading (Honours B.Sc. in Geology with Mathematics), and from Newcastle (Ph.D. in Geophysics), and then holding a Research Fellowship at the Freshwater Biological Association Roy arrived in Edinburgh in 1973. He taught geophysics for 35 years; established the Geophysics & Meteorology degree; set (and marked!) more than 1600 different exam questions; and published two books and 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers before retiring in 2008. Over the years his research interests moved steadily outwards from the Earth’s core to its atmosphere. They began with the geomagnetic field (generated in the core), followed by plate tectonics (driven by mantle convection); surface processes (particularly environmental magnetism); palaeoclimate (lake-sediment records); and most recently atmospheric modelling. His current interests focus on interpreting the seasonal cycles in the iconic carbon dioxide time-series taken atop Mauna Loa. This well-known "Keeling curve", which featured strongly in Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth", first came into being in 1957 as part of the International Geophysical Year. In the last half century the cycles have shown a 15-day advance. The cause of the increasing earliness is strongly disputed. The aim of Roy’s modelling work is to explain (and predict) the seasonal changes in carbon dioxide, especially in terms of the timing (phenology) of spring green-up, and autumn senescence, in the Earth’s temperate zones.

Research Interests (See Section Contents - above, top-left)

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