Calude Boutron#

Short laudatio by André Berger#

Professor Claude Boutron is one of the top international leaders in the research in glaciology and atmospheric chemistry. In an impressive scientific career, he has developed critically important scientific knowledge concerning atmospheric geochemical cycles of heavy metals and their alteration by human activities. This knowledge was obtained by analyzing a large variety of snow and ice cores from Greenland, Antarctica, Latin America, the Himalayas and the Alps for a wide range of heavy metals (especially Pb, Hg, Cd, Cu, Ir, Pt, Pd, Rh and U).

One of Professor Boutron's major achievement was to develop sophisticated techniques suitable for the reliable determination of heavy metals (concentrations, isotopic ratios and speciation) at the incredibly low concentration levels of less than 0.1 picogram per gram at which these metals are found in Greenland and Antarctic snow and ice cores Also, he initiated a network of international collaborations with leading research institutes in Australia, Russia, the United States, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Italy for the development of innovative ultra sensitive analytical techniques.

Among the most spectacular results which were obtained by Prof Boutron, is the evidence of an early large-scale atmospheric pollution for Pb and Cu two millennia ago during the peak of the Roman civilization, long before the Industrial Revolution. It was linked with the history of mining and smelting activities during the Antiquity, which was a crucial factor in the development and fall of the successive civilizations and is of considerable interest to archeologists.

Extremely interesting results were also obtained about the history of atmospheric pollution for Pb since the Industrial Revolution in both hemispheres. They clearly showed a dramatic increase in Pb concentration in Greenland snow from the 1930s to the late 1960s because of the massive rise in the use of lead alkyl additives in gasoline, and the subsequent decrease after the early 1970s as a consequence of the decrease in the use of these additives. This and similar results for Antarctica show that atmospheric pollution for heavy metals has reached the most remote areas of our planet.

Recently, Prof. Boutron became interested in the pollution for Platinum group elements linked with the extensive use of automobile catalytic converters. He showed that this pollution could be found even at high altitude locations in Central Greenland and the Alps.

Other investigations conducted by Claude Boutron deal with past natural changes in various heavy metals in Antarctic ice during the past 670000 years (back to marine isotopic stage I6) and in Greenland ice during the past 100000 years. He especially determined the past variations in Ir and Pt, which are strongly influenced by fallout of meteoric smoke particles during interglacial periods, allowing to obtain very interesting estimates of fallout of extraterrestrial matter onto the Earth He also published the first variation profile of Hg and Hg species in Antarctic ice during the past eight climatic cycles, showing that atmospheric Hg deposition in Antarctica was greater during the coldest climatic stages and suggesting that substantial polar deposition of atmospheric Hg is therefore probably not an exclusively recent phenomenon.

Claude Boutron is an investigator of exceptional capability using sophisticated techniques whose sensitivities and accuracies are presently without peer within the world's scientific community. He has made outstanding contributions to the scientific understanding of the pollution history of the Earth from the Antiquity to present times, and past natural changes in the biogeochemical cycles of heavy metals during the successive climatic cycles.

It should also be mentioned the key role played by Claude Boutron in the education of young scientists from all over the world in the Earth system sciences thanks to the European Research Course on Atmospheres (ERCA). The successive sessions of this high level international course created in 1993 by Prof. Boutron have been attended by more than 900 participants. It has a very high reputation and has still no equivalent in the world.

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