Greenland, Scientists and Ice Melt: A Climate Papa Interview

Used with permission: Darren and his kids

Used with permission: Darren and his kids

We recently had the good fortune of meeting Darren Hill – an Oregon based Climate Papa extraordinaire! Darren wears many hats, including Polar Research Team volunteer member and most importantly, father of five. Darren heads out to Greenland with an international Polar Research team the second half of April 2016. We are pleased to announce that we will be helping Darren share some of his stories, adventures, thoughts and take aways from his experience on the ice. This will be the second year that Darren has accompanied this scientific polar research team to Greenland.

Over the past few years, there have been an increasing number of scientific reports and studies on climate change and ice melt in Greenland and the Antarctic and what that could mean in terms of sea level rise for coastal communities around the world. Darren’s reports will help us understand and make sense of one of these scientific studies currently underway. We know that for policy makers and elected officials (often one and the same) it should and must be critical to have the best science at their finger tips. As Climate Mamas and Papas, part of our job as parents is to make sure policy makers understand the importance of these studies too.

According to CIRES (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences) PhD researcher Mike MacFerrin: “The main goal of the FirnCover project – which is the project Darren is a part of – is to measure the compaction of snow and “firn” as it slowly compresses into glacial ice. That may sound boring, but it’s critical if you want to measure this stuff from space, which is why NASA cares. Melt water flows through the firn, changing its physical structure and chemistry in complex ways.

This information is important as it helps scientists figure out how quickly giant ice sheets like those found on Greenland are melting. This knowledge can in turn help policy makers and us prepare and adapt to sea level rise that accompanies this type of ice melt.

We hope you will help us share Darren’s adventure and information with your friends, colleagues and the kids in your life. Check in with us regularly as we follow along as the expedition begins. For reports on last year’s expedition, you can find posts by Darren here.


Climate Mama

A discussion with Climate Papa Darren Hill

Used with permission:  Darren and  scientists  in Greenland

Used with permission: Darren and scientists in Greenland

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, the steps you took, life events, decisions you made, that helped you arrive at where you are at today?

I have always craved two things: knowledge and experience. From the beginning, I have taken life risks that would play into those two things. Early on in life my family moved from Southern California to the “wild woods” of the Northwest. Faced with more adventures than I ever imagined, I quickly developed a love for exploring the forests. This love developed into almost thirty years of experience, becoming an outdoorsman with expertise in off-trail backpacking and winter mountaineering. Aside from this, I work and thrive in the entrepreneurial world. Several businesses were created and flourish to this day. My every day life, along with adventure and business, includes being married for 17 years to the woman of my dreams and having five fantastic children. Volunteering in my local community is an important and fulfilling part of my life. I work closely with our local homeless shelters and many other essential non-profit organizations. I am currently a volunteer working on the Greenlandic ice sheet as part of an international Polar Research team. I see this as an opportunity to give back to my global community.

2. What inspires you to keep going, to keep fighting this challenging battle against climate change?

I want a planet that my children and their children can enjoy. Educating children on climate change is easy because they are more willing to see that we as humans can and do make mistakes. Knowing the science can bring both the problems and solutions to light.

3. What are the three greatest challenges and/or opportunities you feel the world faces with climate change?

The world is nearing a point where the prediction for climate change is violent (storms, extreme temperature changes, and affecting ocean life) and our ability to adapt to these rapid changes will be difficult. Our current treatment of the environment will affect us for many years to come. The time to take a stand and care is now. Opportunities exist for us to embrace cost effective and clean energy solutions, which will have a much less negative impact on our planet. 

Darren Hill in Greenland-14. Scientific predictions seem to be pointing to more frequent extreme weather scenarios, a shorter time frame for a warmer planet and all of the negative ramifications that this will bring. Yet here in the US, we still seem to be debating the “reality of climate change.” What will it take for us to “wake up” and do our part to avert these consequences? What can you share about your direct experiences with climate scientists?

The biggest concern I have is, because people don’t see tangible evidence (extreme temperature rise across the planet), they will continue to doubt the legitimacy of climate change. Overwhelming confusion caused by misinformation groups and exaggeration of media, can play into people being ignorant or not caring. There are a lot of things wrong with the world: it can be overwhelming to pay attention to them all. A person thinks, “What difference could just one person make to fix our entire planet?” and yet…that is truly the answer.

After doing a scientific expedition, I experienced people with an amazing passion who are willing to put their lives on the line to collect extremely accurate data on surface melt. I could not put into words how incredible it is to watch people in extreme conditions as they take hours to ensure that every crack in an ice core lines up exactly right or that each and every millimeter of an 18 meter ice core is meticulously accounted for, while a raging 70 mph wind blows in extreme temperatures.

5. Do you see any hopeful signs that people are waking up to the dangers of climate change?

I am sharing the “Life on the Ice” experience with my community. In sharing the scope of the ice sheet, the amount of surface melt, and humanizing scientists, I have seen a growing acceptance of our current reality.

6. Other thoughts or ideas that you would like to pass on to our community?

The reality becomes much more concrete when you see the amount of ice that we are talking about with your own eyes. The ice sheet of Greenland is three times the size of Texas and the amount of surface melt from something that large is overwhelming. Seeing large ice lenses accumulate in a localized zone where there should be nothing but accumulation, is a sobering reminder of the dramatic climate shift we are in. Even if we were to do our part to stop the damage immediately, the positive effects won’t be seen for many years to come.

7. What advice would you give to other Climate Mama’s and Papa’s, steps they can take both as individuals and collectively to help change the course we currently find ourselves on with climate change.

We all live on the planet and we are all responsible. No one solution has been found yet, but keeping an open mind to care for the world we live in is most important. As more data is found, and more discoveries are made, we must be open to the reality of what we face. Being familiar with and humanizing science is the best way, in my opinion, to make a bigger difference against the challenges we face.

P.S. A few definitions:

Firn: Ice that is at an intermediate stage between snow and glacial ice.
Ice Lenses are formed when moisture, diffused within soil or rock, accumulate in a localized zone. Darren and the scientists have found ice lenses in the layers of firn that block moisture from being able to penetrate to the firn below, which otherwise would act like a sponge during the summer months.

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