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: Allison Provaire -

Our most recent lecture:




Over the past twenty years NASA has built and sent to Mars a series of orbiters, landers and rovers designed to explore the red planet’s earliest history and seek signs of life. These missions discovered that in contrast to its current harsh environment, the ancient surface of Mars was wet, with a warmer climate, and thought to have been habitable by simple microorganisms. Nutrients, sources of energy and all the key ingredients to sustain life appear to have been present. The remaining question for future missions is now to determine if life ever originated on Mars. The next rover mission, due to launch in 2020, will collect rock samples for return to Earth where they can be examined with our most technologically advanced scientific instruments and giving us our best chance to date to search for fossils of ancient life.


John Grotzinger is a professor of geology and geobiology, and the division chair for Geological and Planetary Sciences, at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Grotzinger studies the co-evolution of surficial environments on Earth and Mars and has served as the chief scientist for the Mars Curiosity rover mission from 2007 to 2015. In addition to being a member of the National Academy of Sciences, he is a recipient of NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal, and was awarded the Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal in 2007—for the elucidation of ancient carbonates and the stromatolites they contain, and for meticulous field research that has established the timing of early animal evolution. Prior to moving to Caltech in 2005, he spent 18 years as a member of the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was named Waldemar Lindgren Distinguished Scholar and Robert R. Shrock Professor of Geology.




Past Lectures

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