Chris Polashenski, Ph.D.

Engineering Sciences

Chris studies the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS), which is the second largest ice cap in the world and contains 10% of Earth’s glacial ice. In the past several years, melt on the GIS has been increasing and contributing to sea level rise, but understanding how rapidly the ice sheet will melt in the future remains fairly limited.

Chris has executed two long traverses on the GIS to determine what controls the amount of sunlight absorption, and thus melt, on the surface of the ice. In 2012, a number of major wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere during late spring and early summer resulted in large depositions of black carbon onto the GIS, darkening the ice in a way that may have increased sunlight absorption and thus the amount of melt.

The possibility that increased fire activity in places like Siberia, which is predicted in a warming climate, could be linked to increased melt on the GIS shows the interconnectedness of our world (see Dartmouth Now story). With global sea level potentially threatening the homes of hundreds of millions of people and billions of dollars of coastal infrastructure, understanding future melt on the GIS of great importance.

Chris’s research has informed people around the world on the importance of climate change and sea level rise, and has had a profound impact on the international dialogue about climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Dr. Polashenski continues his research in Greenland as a Research Geophysicist at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory.

Read more about Chris Polashenki’s 2014 traverse of the Greenland Ice Sheet and his research on sea ice melt in Alaska. He also designed and rebuilt Dartmouth’s Class of ’66 Lodge (formerly the Harris Cabin).

The John Sloan Dickey Center