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Image of iceberg reflecting in calm arctic waters

I always come home from a CIFAR meeting full of ideas and excited about new directions for my own work.

Shelley Phipps
Senior Fellow, Social Interactions, Identity and Well-Being

Earth System Evolution

At a time when global warming weighs heavily on the public consciousness, the Earth System Evolution program provided the larger context of how our world has evolved over hundreds of millions of years.


CIFAR's Earth System Evolution program ran from 1992 to 2014, taking a uniquely holistic approach to analyzing how the Earth system works. This approach required interdisciplinary collaboration between experts in geodynamics, geochemistry, glaciology, fluid dynamics and climate science. It also required transdisciplinary thinking, a skill that was developed through program interactions and cultivated in both program members and the next generation of Earth system scientists.

Most global change research focuses narrowly on atmosphere-hydrosphere interactions, and on relatively short timescales. In contrast, CIFAR’s Earth System Evolution program focused on both short and long timescales, and considered the entire Earth system.

By creating historical climate reconstructions, program members boosted the predictive power of current climate models. These reconstructions incorporated interconnections among the Earth's interior, surface, oceans, atmosphere and biosphere.

Many current global crises are inextricably linked to environmental issues, including drought, famine, disease, migration and even war. Resolving such crises requires a deep understanding of how the Earth has changed, and how it is likely to continue changing. CIFAR's Earth System Evolution provided this depth.

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FORMER DIRECTOR

Jerry X. Mitrovica

Image of Jerry Mitrovica

Dr. Mitrovica has been the recipient of several prestigious awards, including: the Rutherford Memorial Medal from the Royal Society of Canada (2000), a Steacie Prize from the NRC (2001), the McLean Award from the University of Toronto (2001), the Young Explorers Prize from CIFAR (2002).

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Shut down the plates

Image of arctic weather station

By comparing Venus and Earth, geophysicist Mark Jellinek found that a heated atmosphere can cause plate tectonics to shut down and lock into place. The result is a vast landscape of volcanoes.

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