Jason Box speaks the language of Manhattans. Not the drink -- the measuring unit.
As an expert on Greenland who has traveled 23 times to the massive, mile-thick northern ice sheet, Box has shown an uncanny ability to predict major melts and breakoffs of Manhattan-sized ice chunks. A few years back, he foretold the release of a “4x Manhattans” piece of ice from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier, one so big that once afloat it was dubbed an “ice island.” In a scientific paper [PDF] published in February of 2012, Box further predicted “100% melt area over the ice sheet” within another decade of global warming. As it happened, the ice sheet’s surface almost completely melted just a month later in July -- an event that, in Box’s words, “signals the beginning of the end for the ice sheet.”
Box, who will speak at next week’s Climate Desk Live briefing in Washington, D.C., pulls no punches when it comes to attributing all of this to humans and their fossil fuels. “Those who claim it’s all cycles just don’t understand that humans are driving the cycle right now, and for the foreseeable future,” he says. And the coastal consequences of allowing Greenland to continue its melting -- and pour 23 feet worth of sea level into the ocean over the coming centuries -- are just staggering. “If you’re the mayor of Hamburg, or Shanghai, or Philadelphia, I think it’s in your job description that you think forward a century,” says Box. “They’re completely inundated by the year 2200.”
Unless, that is, something big changes -- something big enough to start Greenland cooling, shifting its “mass balance” from ice loss to ice gain once again. But that would require us to reverse global climate change, in an ever-dwindling time frame for doing so.