News: Nov 05, 2015
Zhisheng An is professor at the Institute of Earth Environment. Photo: Johan Wingborg.
Chinese climate researcher Zhisheng An was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Gothenburg’s Faculty of Science earlier this year. On 16 October, his honorary degree was conferred on him at the university’s conferment ceremony.
“I was delighted to find out that I would receive an honorary doctorate,” recalls Professor An.
Zhisheng An is a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Earth Environment in Xi’an, and is one of the world’s leading climate change researchers. The honorary doctorate recognises his work to understand the dynamics involved in Asian monsoons and global climate change.
“This is the first time I’ve received such an award from a Western country, and I’m very, very pleased to have been honoured in this way.”
In particular, the faculty wishes to recognise Professor An’s contributions within the field of paleoclimatology, which involves research into what the climate was like before meteorological observations began. This research uses climate indicators such as tree rings and marine sediment to reconstruct temperature, aridity and atmospheric circulation, for example.
“Tree rings can provide excellent data several thousand years back in time, long before accessible modern meteorological observations were available.”
Professor An has been a driving force behind the successful long-term cooperation between the University of Gothenburg’s Department of Earth Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This cooperation has resulted in the Sino-Swedish Centre for Tree-Ring Research, and has proven to be extremely valuable for both teaching staff and students.
“Xi’an is located in the area affected by the Asian monsoon, and Gothenburg is in the North Atlantic west wind belt. The two cities may be far apart, but there are links between our climate systems and we have achieved extremely good results through our cooperation.”
In connection with his visit to Sweden, Professor An gave a Nordenskjöld Lecture as part of the Faculty of Science’s high profile series of seminars featuring prominent researchers within the field of earth systems science. In his lecture, Professor An spoke about some of the results of the research programme involving data collection carried out by him and his colleagues in China since the beginning of the 21st century. These studies took place in arid and semi-arid areas, and in the monsoon areas. The results showed teleconnections – ways in which climates in regions a long way apart can be linked to each other – between the areas around the Asian summer monsoon and the North Atlantic, or even the Antarctic.
Professor An emphasises that cooperation with the group from the University of Gothenburg has made an important contribution towards improving knowledge about regional and global climate changes, and that he hopes to keep building relationships between the two universities.
“Even if we can understand the teleconnections between these areas, we still want to know what the results and consequences of global warming in these regions might be in the future. And in order to understand what might happen in the future, we need to understand what has happened in the past.”
Originally published on: science.gu.se