Location: Bowdoin / Environmental Studies / Activity / 2013 / Mathematics and the Melting Polar Ice Caps

Environmental Studies

Mathematics and the Melting Polar Ice Caps

Story posted April 10, 2013

Event date(s): April 01, 2013 — April 15, 2013

Friday, April 12
Kresge Auditorium, VAC

Dr. Kenneth Golden, presents the Dan E. Christie Mathematics Lecture.


In September of 2012, the area of the Arctic Ocean covered by sea ice reached its lowest level ever recorded in more than three decades of satellite measurements.  In fact, compared to the 1980's and 1990's, this represents a loss of more than half of the summer Arctic sea ice pack. While global climate models generally predict sea ice declines over the 21st century, the precipitous losses observed so far have significantly outpaced most projections.
Dr. Golden will discuss how mathematical models of composite materials and statistical physics are being used to study key sea ice processes and to advance how sea ice is represented in climate models. This work is helping to improve projections of the fate of Earth's ice packs, and the response of polar ecosystems. In addition, a video from a 2012 Antarctic expedition where sea ice properties were measured will be shown.

Dr. Golden's photographs are also on display in the Searles Science Building, and in the exhibition Sense of Scale, Measure by Color: Art Science and Mathematics of Planet Earth, at the Bowdoin Museum of Art, April 4 - June 2, 2013.
The lecture is aimed at a general audience. Students, high school students and the public are all welcome, free of charge.


Kenneth M. Golden is a Professor of Mathematics and Adjunct Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Utah. His scientific interests lie in sea ice, climate change, composite materials, phase transitions, and inverse problems. He has published 56 papers in mathematics, physics, geophysics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and biomechanics journals, and given over 350 invited lectures on six continents, including three presentations in the US Congress. Dr. Golden has journeyed seven times to Antarctica and eight times to the Arctic to study sea ice.

In high school he became fascinated by the polar regions, studying satellite images of sea ice at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. As an undergraduate he worked at the US Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory on radar propagation in sea ice, while completing degrees in Mathematics and Physics at Dartmouth College. Dr. Golden received his Ph.D. in Mathematics at the Courant Institute of NYU in 1984. Prior to moving to Utah in 1991, he was an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University, and a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Rutgers University in mathematical physics.

In 2011 Professor Golden was selected as a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics for "extraordinary interdisciplinary work on the mathematics of sea ice," and in 2013 he was in the inaugural class of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society. Professor Golden received the University of Utah's highest award for teaching in 2007 and for research in 2012. His polar expeditions and mathematical work have been covered in over 30 newspaper, magazine, and web articles, including profiles in Science and Science News. He has also been interviewed numerous times on radio and television.

Co-sponsored by the Mathematics Department, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, and NSF Math Climate Research Network.