Obituary: Stan Paterson, 89

Stan Paterson's work aided climate change experts. Picture: contributed
Stan Paterson's work aided climate change experts. Picture: contributed
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STAN Paterson, a highly resepcted researcher who pioneered Canada’s original ice-coring programme, has died, aged 89.

Stan was responsible for regular reports on Canada’s snow and ice research throughout the 1970s, with his work helping to pioneer the understanding of glaciers and the physics behind the natural phenomenon.

The highly-respected researcher was born in Edinburgh in 1924. He studied maths and physics at Edinburgh University, graduating in 1949 and working initially as a lecturer.

During his time at university, Stan had joined the student mountaineering club. It was courtesy of the lifelong friends he made there that he was invited to join the British North Greenland Expedition in 1953-54 as a surveyor.

He was part of the team that climbed and measured the thickness of the Greenland Ice Cap. The venture introduced him to glaciology and led to him being involved in measuring altitudes at 300 points across 1200km of the ice sheet.

The venture resulted in him being chosen in 1956 for an expedition to South Georgia in the south Atlantic, where he was employed as assistant surveyor.

The party of eight spent six months making the first island-wide surveys of the major mountain ranges and incidentally witnessed the final days of whaling.

Stan had a 2196m high peak – Mount Paterson – named after him as part of the work. He emigrated to Canada the following year for a job involving radar in Montreal.

However, he took time off the next summer to be involved in the Scottish East Greenland Expedition – a ski and climbing trip with elements of science included.

Measuring the flow of one of Greenland’s coastal glaciers was the main scientific objective of the journey. The glacier turned out to be moving faster than expected – a discovery that foreshadowed global warming.

Stan met an American polar scientist during the trip and signed up for a glaciology program at the University of British Columbia as a result.

In 1958, he joined the Polar Continental Shelf Project as a glaciologist. Stan would build up a group of scientists and technicians who spent many summers on the ice caps of the Canadian Arctic, drilling up ice cores that were analysed for structure, chemistry and oxygen isotopes.

Their discoveries would be used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

During the work, Stan wrote The Physics of Glaciers – one of the foundation textbooks of glaciology that has become widely used and is now in its fourth edition.

He was awarded the Richardson Medal for Outstanding Services to Glaciology last year. He leaves behind wife Lyn and sister Betty.