The John Carlson Lecture

The John Carlson Lecture communicates exciting new results in climate science to the general public. Free of charge and open to the general public, the lecture is made possible by a generous gift from MIT alumnus John H. Carlson to the Lorenz Center in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, MIT. For more information please contact Angela Ellis:


UPCOMING LECTURE:  October 21 2021, 7pm, Hybrid - Location TBA

Climate and the potential for life on other planets

Understanding planetary habitability is key to understanding how and why life developed on Earth as well as whether life is present on planets that orbit different stars (exoplanets). Whether a planet could be habitable is determined primarily by the planet's climate. I will talk about how insights we've gained from studying Earth's climate have been used to make predictions about which exoplanets might be habitable, and how astronomical observations indicate the possibility of new climatic regimes not found on modern Earth. Finally, I will bring things back to Earth and the future of humanity by discussing what's called the Fermi paradox: it seems like life could develop on many planets, so why haven't we detected extraterrestrial life yet? One possible answer is that civilizations tend to destroy themselves through mechanisms such as environmental damage and nuclear war

THIS YEAR'S SPEAKER: Professor Dorian Abbot (University of Chicago)
Dorian Abbot received his undergraduate degree in physics (2004, Harvard) and PhD in applied math (2008, Harvard). He came to the University of Chicago as a Chamberlin Fellow in 2009 and stayed on as a faculty member in 2011. In his research, Dorian uses mathematical and computational models to understand and explain fundamental problems in Earth and Planetary Sciences. He has worked on problems related to climate, paleoclimate, the cryosphere, planetary habitability, exoplanets, and planetary dynamics.


Details for the 2021 fall lecture forthcoming.





Past Lectures

2019: Professor Laura Robinson, professor of geochemistry, University of Bristol
Deep Sea Corals and Their Climate Secrets

2018: Professor John Grotzinger, professor of geology and geobiology, and the division chair for Geological and Planetary Sciences, at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
Searching for Ancient Life on Mars

2017: Professor Susan Solomon, Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies
A Brief History of Environmental Successes

2016: Professor Richard Alley, Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Penn. State
Big Ice: Antarctica, Greenland and Boston

2015: Professor Bjorn StevensDirector of the Atmosphere in the Earth System Department at the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology, and professor at the University of Hamburg
Watching Water: Nature's Field Guide to Weather and Climate


2014: Professor Peter Molnar, Professor of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder, Fellow, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Boulder, CO
Big Cats, Panamá, and Armadillos: A Story of Climate and Life


2013: Professor John Wettlaufer, Professor of Applicable Mathematics at Oxford and the A.M. Bateman Professor of Applied Mathematics, Geophysics and Physics at Yale
Sea Ice, Climate and Observational Mathematics


2012: Professor Timothy Palmer, Royal Society Professor of Climate Physics at UK's Oxford University
Predicting Climate in a Chaotic World: How Certain Can We Be?


2011: Professor Paul Hoffman, Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology Emeritus at Harvard University
Earth's Surprising Climate History