Prof. Henderson is a geochemist working to understand the long-term operation of the climate system and the carbon cycle. His research relies on geological records of past climates (from caves and marine sediments) and on chemical measurements of the modern ocean. He seeks to understand components of the climate system with particular relevance to the future, including changes in rainfall, sea level, permafrost, and ocean circulation. He has spoken to diverse audiences on issues relating to climate, oceanography, and geoengineering, including to the World Economic Forum (Davos and Dalian); Virgin Unite (Necker); and Intelligence Squared (London).
Prof. Henderson is Head of the Earth Sciences Department at the University of Oxford (UK). He has a degree in Earth Sciences from the University of Oxford, a PhD in Geochemistry from the University of Cambridge (UK), and previously worked at Columbia University (USA). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2013.
Twenty-four percent of northern hemisphere land remains frozen throughout the year. This permafrost contains more than twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, and is the basis for extensive natural ecosystems and human infrastructure. It will thaw as we progress into a warmer climate, but the extent and speed of this thawing are hard to predict. We can assess the sensitivity of permafrost to climate by assessing its sensitivity to past change. This talk will outline how speleothems – carbonates formed in caves – have enabled reconstruction of the extent of permafrost in Siberia for the last three million years, and how the observed changes link to climate changes globally. It will also briefly outline some of the chemical approaches used to assess past changes in temperature and rainfall from speleothems.