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20 July 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
The view from one of the offices in the Marion Island research station, with fresh snowfall in the interior of the island in the background.

Liezel Rudolph, lecturer and researcher in the Department of Geography at the University of the Free State (UFS), is strongly convinced that the Southern Hemisphere’s past glacial cycles will provide valuable insights to help predict and prepare for future climate change. Climate is changing fast and the magnitude of change we have seen over the last 30 years has taken a hundred or several hundred years to occur in the past. 

It is not only temperatures that are rising, but changes in wind patterns, rain cycles, oceanic circulation, etc., are also observed. As we do not know how the earth will respond or adapt to such rapid and drastic changes in climatic patterns, this poses various threats.

Link between landscape responses and climate change

Rudolph focuses her research on reconstructing the past climate of Marion Island. 

She had the wonderful opportunity to visit the island for the past three years with study and project leaders, Profs Werner Nel from the University of Fort Hare and David Hedding from UNISA, she departed on a ship to Marion Island to conduct fieldwork.They published their research findings of fieldwork conducted in 2017 and 2018.  

According to Rudolph, research in Antarctica, the Southern Ocean, and islands such as Marion Island is very important. South Africa is the only African country with research stations that have the ability to explore these regions.

“Marion Island has many landforms that could only have been created by glacial erosional or depositional processes, with glaciers currently absent from the island. To determine when the island was last in a full glacial period, we date the formation ages of these landforms.”

“In the short time we have been visiting the island, it was impossible to notice any drastic changes in the island climate. That is why we use these very old landforms to tell us more about periods before humans visited the island,” she says. 

Rudolph believes that understanding the link between landscape responses and climate change of the past can help to better predict some of the climate change processes that are currently threatening the planet.

“There’s a principle in geography called ‘uniformitarianism’, whereby we assume that the earth-surface processes we observe today, are the same as those that have been active in the past,” says Rudolph.

As scientists, they thus look at evidence of past geomorphic processes (which remain in the landscape in various forms, e.g. residual landforms, stratigraphic sequences, etc.) to piece together what the past climate was like. In the same way, they also use this principle to predict how certain earth processes will change in the future, along with climate changes.

“In return, we understand how the climate and the earth’s surface interact, and we can better predict how the earth will respond to climate change,” Rudolph adds. 

Society to play its part in climate change

In the long run, we as the public should play our part in readying society for the effects of climate change. 

Rudolph says society can play a positive role in terms of climate change by educating themselves with unbiased, scientifically sound information on the true state of climate change and by responding within their own spheres of influence.

“Don’t leave everything up to politicians and policy. As the public, you can start to make progress by assessing the effects that climate change may have on your industry, business or society, and strategise on how to adapt your processes to deal with these changes.”

“Be responsible with our natural resources, reduce your waste, support local businesses that are sustainable, and volunteer at a local environmental protection/clean-up organisation. All the small efforts will eventually add up to substantial change,” she says. 

News Archive

‘Gaza doctor’ Izzeldin Abuelaish visits UFS
2011-10-03

 

Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish

Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Palestinian doctor who became the centre of a media firestorm in January 2009 when three of his daughters were killed and members of his family injured in an attack on Gaza, will be visiting our Bloemfontein Campus in October 2011. Dr Abuelaish, author of the bestselling I shall not hate: a Gaza doctor’s journey on the road to peace and human dignity, will be presenting two public lectures on 17 and 18 October 2011. He will be visiting the university at the invitation of Prof. Jonathan Jansen and will be hosted by the International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice.

Dr Abuelaish, currently Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. He founded the Foundation “Daughters for Life” (www.daughtersforlife.com). During his visit, he will lead group discussions by using his personal biography to explain his commitment to the transformational value of a commitment to peace and human dignity. Dr Abuelaish will also be meeting with members of the medical fraternity and the Faculties of Education and the Humanities to discuss his foundation and its role in promoting women’s education.  
 
For more information on Dr Abuelaish’s visit, please contact Prof. Jaqueline du Toit at DuToitJS@ufs.ac.za or Prof. André Keet on 051 401 9808.

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