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Bernard FrancouGetting to the core

Published in 2000

French glaciologist Bernard Francou extracted an ice core from deep inside an Andean glacier to provide an archive of climatic change over thousands of years.

locationEcuador, The Andes

In recent decades, El Niño, the periodic warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, has been returning more often, bringing with it floods, fires and devastation across the globe. Some scientists suspect the frequency and ferocity of El Niño owe something to global warming, a theory Bernard Francou has helped inform with his work.

The glacier observation network I created in 1991 is working well, and I’m becoming increasingly interested in spreading knowledge of climate issues among laymen.

Responsible for the glacier monitoring programme of the French Institute for Research and Development, Francou spearheaded his Rolex award-winning project to extract an ice core from a glacier at the top of Ecuador’s highest peak, Chimborazo. The information on El Niño’s long evolution that this experiment garnered helped improve the world’s understanding of climate change.

Francou continues to publish his own observations on the Chimborazo ice-core drilling operation, and the main findings of this expedition have been published in various scientific reviews and in two books, benefiting glaciologists and climatologists. National Geographic and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have called on his expertise, and there have been several television documentaries on his work. In recognition of his scientific findings, Francou was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 2014.

  • 6,268 m

    Height of Ecuador’s highest peak, the extinct volcano Chimborazo, from which Francou extracted his ice core


Rolex Awards for Enterprise

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