Dr. Matt Huber

Associate Professor, Purdue University’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and co-founder of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center

Matthew Huber is an Associate Professor in Purdue University’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department and co-founding member of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. He has been Associate Editor of Paleoceanography and G-Cubed, and co-Chair of the Paleoclimate Working Group of the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Climate System Modeling initiative. He is currently Director of the Purdue Institute for a Sustainable Future.  Huber attempts to solve fundamental climate questions, such as: When global warming occurs, how much is the warming amplified near the poles? What are the impacts of climate change on the hydrological cycle and severe weather events? What sets the equilibrium equator-to-pole temperature gradient and how is this key parameter related to global mean temperature? Are there mechanisms that generate increased heat transport in warm time intervals? What are the negative feedbacks in the climate system that prevent a positive feedback loop, i.e. a ‘runaway greenhouse effect?’

Attempting to answer these fundamental climate questions has led Huber from the present to the deep past (Eocene–50 million years ago) and back again. Huber’s work covers many subjects and methodologies including: climate modelling , paleobiogeographic reconstructions, Lagrangian tracer modelling, compound-specific isotope record synthesis, and satellite observation investigation. One of his most exciting research opportunities was collaborating with other scientists who collected deep sea cores from the Arctic Ocean on Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Cruise 302. The paleoclimate proxy records indicated Florida-like temperatures in the Arctic 55 million years ago, whereas the climate models produced only tepid temperatures.



Dr. Matt Huber, a paleoclimate modeler at Purdue University, focuses on studying past periods of global warming to better understand and test models for predicting future climate change. He explains the importance of reconstructing past climates and greenhouse gas concentrations. Dr. Huber emphasizes the amplified warming effect near the poles and discusses how the geological record reveals periods without ice sheets in AntArctica and Greenland, suggesting a significantly warmer planet in the past. But he highlights the rarity of our current climate compared to the period he studies, where the Arctic Ocean was mostly ice-free, and tropical conditions allowed for the presence of crocodiles and palm trees near Greenland. Dr. Huber also touches on the migration of early primates across the Bering land bridge during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, a warm period around 55 million years ago. He explains that long-term variations in greenhouse gas concentrations occur naturally, with factors like volcanic activity and carbon cycle feedbacks influencing CO2 levels over tens of millions of years. He discusses the rapid warming event during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, possibly triggered by the release of methane hydrates and positive carbon cycle feedbacks. This warming persisted for approximately 100,000 years. Overall, Dr. Huber’s work sheds light on past climate dynamics and provides valuable insights into the potential future trajectory of our climate system.

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Dr. Matt Huber from Purdue University warns about the rapid increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which is occurring at a rate ten times faster than in previous major climate change events. He emphasizes that human reliance on burning carbon-based resources for energy is a significant contributor to this problem. Dr. Huber discusses the potential consequences of continued carbon burning, including a warming trend similar to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. He also highlights the alarming rate of present-day Arctic sea ice melting, predicting the possibility of it disappearing seasonally within the next few decades and eventually becoming ice-free year-round. Furthermore, he discusses the potential increase in precipitation in regions historically receiving more rain and the likelihood of intense convection events occurring over the Arctic Ocean during polar winters. Lastly, Dr. Huber mentions the vulnerability of ice sheets, particularly the Greenland ice sheet, and the uncertainties surrounding their stability in a warming world. Overall, his insights underscore the need for urgent action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and address the potential impacts on global climate and polar regions.

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Dr. Matt Huber, interviewed by Arcticstories’ Dr. Paul Shepson, discusses his views on the future climate and the potential impacts of global warming. Dr. Huber expresses a pessimistic outlook–he believes the next couple hundred years will not be favorable for most people. While the ice sheets in AntArctica and Greenland are expected to remain, the rest of the world will experience significant warming. This scenario deviates from the paleoclimate record, where warm periods were followed by the formation of ice sheets. Dr. Huber explains that the future will be characterized by anomalous conditions, including warm temperatures over ice sheets and the retreat of sea ice and land ice. Winter as we know it may disappear, and there will likely be a delay of 50 to 150 years before these changes fully manifest. Dr. Huber emphasizes that unless fossil fuel consumption is curbed, substantial warming is inevitable. He argues that climate sensitivity is likely higher than previously estimated, making it crucial to reduce emissions as early as possible. He acknowledges, however, that we are already committed to significant warming due to past emissions. Dr. Shepson adds that the future will bring more extreme weather events, such as extremely hot and humid days and nights, which have lethal consequences for vulnerable populations. He emphasizes the difficulties in preparing for such events, particularly in regions where people have little experience with extreme heat. Both scientists agreed that drastic and immediate action, such as transitioning to extremely low or zero emissions, is necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. However, they also highlight the challenges of implementing such measures on a global scale with such a limited time available to make a substantial difference. Without significant changes, they conclude that we are already committed to a future with severe climate impacts.

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