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Our icy (for now) planet: STEM Café forecasts effects of melting ice

December 2, 2016

Earth’s ice is melting, and it isn’t likely to stop anytime soon. At the next STEM Café, “Our Icy Planet: The Future of the Cryosphere in a Warming World,” NIU ice expert Ross Powell will draw on over four decades of field research to explore the dramatic changes already being triggered worldwide as our ice dwindles.

The free event will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 7, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Eduardo’s Mexican Restaurant, 214 E. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb.

“We rely on ice to survive,” says Powell. “It provides drinking water for humans and livestock. It helps sustain agriculture. As more ice melts, billions of people will be affected. In order to understand this, you first have to understand just how pervasive ice is in the world. There’s ice in the tropics, at the poles, in our deserts. There’s ice on mountaintops and deep undersea. It’s everywhere and we absolutely depend on it.”

Powell has built his knowledge of the “cryosphere”––the world of ice––over decades of field research around the world. Early in his career, he was the first person to use a robotic submarine to investigate glaciers that touch the ocean in Alaska, Chile and Antarctica. His presentation will feature striking photographs from these research trips.

“People have heard about melting glaciers affecting human and animal habitats around the North Pole or causing rising sea levels around the world,” he says. “But those are certainly not all of the possible effects. A loss of ice in the world could end up altering the way water circulates through our oceans and atmosphere. It will likely change civilization as we know it.”

“Powell has traveled the frozen world studying just how vital ice is to life on Earth,” says Judith Dymond, who coordinates the STEM Café series. “We’re lucky to have such an established expert here at NIU to help us understand where our world is going.”

Food and drink will be available for purchase from Eduardo’s.

Monthly STEM Cafés are one of many programs offered through NIU STEAM Works, part of the university’s Center for P-20 Engagement. Each café provides an opportunity to learn about the science, technology, engineering and mathematics that are a part of our everyday lives.

All STEM Cafés are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Judy Dymond at [email protected] or 779-777-7713.