By Emma Reilly
A crowd of Washington College students, faculty, and staff—along with a considerable number of locals—gathered at the Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre on High Street on Feb. 28 to attend a lecture on climate change and global warming.
WC’s Department of Environmental Science and Studies and the Center for Environment and Society welcomed Arctic Climatologist and Glaciologist Dr. Jason Box to Chestertown for another installment in a series of events focused on arctic climate science. Financial support for the event was provided by the William James Forum Fund and the College’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
Director of CES Dr. Valerie Imbruce introduced Dr. Box and his lecture, which was titled “Arctic Climate and Greenland Ice: Global Connections.” Dr. Imbruce said that she was pleased to be introducing her first event as director.
“Dr. Box exemplifies a twenty-first century public scientist, using his expertise to ask questions and spread awareness about climate change’s effect on society, not to scare us with the severity of predictions, but to inspire us to learn and act as engaged global citizens,” Dr. Imbruce said.
Dr. Box is a renowned climatologist and glaciologist. According to Dr. Imbruce, Dr. Box has participated in over 30 arctic expeditions to Greenland since 1994. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2001.
“As an undergraduate, I wanted to pursue astronomy,” Dr. Box said. “But eventually I realized that there were problems here on Earth that were more pressing.”
Dr. Box worked at Ohio State University’s Byrd Polar Research Center for nearly a decade before becoming professor of glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, according to Dr. Imbruce.
Dr. Box is also featured in two environmental films, Into the Ice (2022) and Before the Flood (2016), which were screened on campus on Feb. 7 and Feb. 16, respectively.
According to Dr. Imbruce, Dr. Box traveled to Chestertown from Denmark.
During the lecture, he analyzed the current state of the climate crisis and explained why current climate projection models are inaccurate.
The amplifying effect produced by flooding on the surface of arctic ice sheets, the softening of said ice sheets that results from the transfer of heat to the interior of the ice, the increased duration of algal blooms, and hydrofracturing are all significant global warming phenomena that current global climate projection models do not account for, according to Dr. Box.
Dr. Box said that he and his team are “always experimenting with ways to communicate and observe” the effects of climate change. One way they achieved this recently was by bringing a visual artist along with them on an expedition.
Dr. Box shared images of an arctic landscape painted by Watercolorist Mette Hansgaard. As Hansgaard painted, Dr. Box said, it began to rain, producing a melting effect on the painting of the ice sheet.
“It reflects perfectly the effect of increased precipitation on the ice,” Dr. Box said. “I think we achieved what we set out to do.”
Dr. Box also explained that first-hand observation and data collection are the only ways for scientists to completely grasp the realities of arctic ice melt. “Nature reveals its secrets. We just have to listen,” he said.
To combat climate change, Dr. Box said that humans need to halt carbon emission and remove 200-500 Gt carbon from the air. Understanding the relationship between energy, economy, environment, equity, and education is key to cracking down on the climate crisis, according to Dr. Box.
After the lecture, he moderated a brief question-and-answer session, which was followed by a wine and cheese reception. Guests were able to mingle with each other and Dr. Box in the theater before leaving for the evening.
CES will welcome Mensun Bound, a maritime archaeologist best known for participating in an expedition which resulted in rediscovery of the Endurance in the Weddell Sea, to campus to deliver another climate-themed lecture. The event will take place on April 12 at 7 p.m. in the Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts.
Photo courtesy of Emma Reilly Photo Caption: Dr. Box was welcomed to Chestertown in the third part of the College’s environmental series.