Face of the Month: Melting ice sheets can raise sea levels, but we still have time to act!

18.10.2018 8:00

Rupert Gladstone hopes that our generation have will to make right decisions in order to secure favorable living environment also for the future generations.

It is not too late yet. It is still possible to influence the direction in which the global climate is developing. With modern research methods, the climate and the changes taking place can be studied so precisely that under certain conditions we will be able to predict the trends and even steer them in the desired direction. This is at least the opinion of Rupert Gladstone, Adjunct Professor at the Arctic Centre, who specialises in the study of Antarctic ice sheet.

– Social media is feeding us a great deal of false information about climate change, and bad information easily offsets professional expertise. It is true that, with human activity contributing, climate change has reached a critical point and we are faced with many difficult choices. However, our generation still has the opportunity to make the right decisions and safeguard a favourable living environment even for the future generations.

According to Gladstone, the understanding of the link between climate change and melting glaciers is getting stronger, as the changes are increasingly visible. There is no point denying the facts: sea waters are warming and the sea level is rising with the melting glaciers contributing. Gladstone tells about speculations that the melting of Antarctica could be much faster than previously believed. We are talking about melting up to a meter in 100 years.

– I personally consider the issue of climate change in a very academic way, and it does not affect me on an emotional level. I am more concerned about personal issues, if my children are bullied at school, say. And of course I am worried about global political disasters, such as Trump being elected president, Gladstone laughs.

Photo: Ari Laakso/Arctic Centre

Englishman Gladstone and his German-born wife Angela have two children. The family of four have relocated often. They have moved around the world because of the father's work – from England to Australia, Germany and Finland. Gladstone admits that moving with the family is not always easy. What makes it easier is that the family makes the decisions together, and they learn to know the destination in advance. First invitation to work in Rovaniemi came in 2012.

– We were still living in England at the time, but we had been thinking about moving for a while. The Arctic Centre had posted a vacancy in the Global Change Research Group that needed an experienced person for modelling the Svalbard ice cap. I was hired and we moved to Lapland.

Currently, the family base is in the village of Dachsberg in southern Germany in the picturesque Black Forest area. According to Gladstone, the small village is located so high above sea level that the threat of rising waters cannot reach them. To those altitudes, Gladstone returns immediately after a work period in Rovaniemi ends, and from there he will soon launch himself back to the wide expanses of Lapland.

– For the time being, the arrangement is such that I research for and cooperate with the Arctic Centre mainly remotely from home in Germany. At regular intervals, I fly to Rovaniemi for a few weeks to meet colleagues, to work on my research and to guide graduate students who are specialising in my field.

From the outset, Gladstone has found the Arctic Centre and Rovaniemi pleasant and hospitable places where the focus is on the people and on the employees. According to him, you can see this especially in small details.

– When I got here to work for the first time, they asked me what kind of office chair I would like. I got a really cool and ergonomic chair. I found that exceptional. I realised that here people are really appreciated.

Rupert Gladstone

  • Adjunct Professor of Computer Modelling in Glaciology
  • Global Change Research Group, Arctic Centre
  • Research topics include the stability of ice sheets and their contribution to sea level rise, ice sheet – ocean interactions, and computer modelling of ice flow.
  • Motto: “All models are wrong but some are useful”
  • Rupert Gladstone’s publications and projects can be accesses through the LaCRIS research system and in Google Scholar

Welcome to the open lecture on 24 October, 2018: Stopping the flood – Can we engineer ice sheets and save the homes of a billion people? 

Text and photo: Maria Paldanius