Torbjörn E. Törnqvist is the Vokes Geology Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Tulane Universisty. He received his degrees in Physical Geography from Utrecht University (MS: 1988, PhD: 1993), followed by a series of postdoctoral research appointments based in Utrecht and at Louisiana State University. In 1999, he became an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, before joining Tulane University as an Associate Professor in 2005 and becoming a Professor in 2010. He is currently the Chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Tulane. From 2006 to 2013, he served as the Director of the National Institute for Climatic Change Research Coastal Center, a US Department of Energy funding agency supporting basic research that aims to reduce the uncertainty about the future of coastal ecosystems nationwide due to climate and sea-level change.
Törnqvist’s research is funded, among others, by the US National Science Foundation. His work has appeared in leading journals, including Science and Nature Geoscience. His research interests revolve around the evolution of rivers, deltas, coasts, and shallow oceans in response to climate and sea-level change over timescales of centuries to the past few hundred thousand years. Current fieldwork by Törnqvist’s research group is focused on the Mississippi Delta and the adjacent US Gulf Coast. Several recent studies have drawn attention to connections between climate change and global sea-level change during the past ~8500 years. This includes climate episodes during the past millennium, such as the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, plus an abrupt cooling that affected the Northern Hemisphere approximately 8200 years ago. These subjects currently receive great interest from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in view of their relevance to predicting future climate and sea-level changes worldwide. Törnqvist’s research group also infers rates of coastal subsidence and its mechanisms, which constitute an enormous challenge for coastal Louisiana as well as other low-lying coastal regions around the globe. Finally, the sedimentary record of the Mississippi Delta is used to provide a framework for coastal restoration. This includes the analysis of marsh sustainability under variable rates of sea-level rise, plus studies of the evolution of landforms that serve as natural analogs for river diversions.