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Emiliani, Cesare

isotopic temperature ice quaternary

[emeel yah nee] (1922– ) Italian–US geologist: demonstrated the cyclic nature of ice ages and established the climatic history of the Quaternary period.

Emiliani emigrated to the USA in 1948, graduating from the University of Chicago in 1950, where he remained until moving to the University of Miami in 1956. Following the suggestion of that the isotopic ratio of oxygen ( 18O/ 16O) in sea water depends upon the prevailing temperature (due to isotopic fractionation), Emiliani pioneered a technique for determining the past temperature of the oceans by measuring the 18O/ 16O ratio in the carbonate remains of microorganisms in ocean sediments. By selecting for study only pelagic species (ie those that live near the ocean surface) he was able to establish, in 1955, that there had been seven glacial cycles during the Quaternary period, almost double the number of ice ages that were formerly thought to have occurred. Oxygen isotope methods are now an established technique in palaeoclimatic studies.

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