Tales of the Cryosphere Kid

Skeptical Science’s very own Robert Way is a steely-eyed veteran of the Climate Wars.  An Inuit descendent and native of Northern Labrador, Robert Way has seen his share of action in the Cryosphere.

What’s that?  You say you’ve never heard of the Cryosphere?  Well, that’s a tale that grew in the tellin’.  Pull up a chair, pardner, and sit a spell.  Many’s the story of that intrepid scientist, from the time he used his Schmidt hammer to fend off hungry polar bears to the time he stopped up a raging volcano in the Antarctic Peninsula with his tuque.  But this here tale ain’t about any of them.  Lemme tell you about how Robert Way got his nickname of reknown…

The Cryosphere Kid

Robert Way was a young-un at Uni when he was tabbed to take part in CryoEx, a student exchange program where they send the students with the most aptitude and potential (and some say sass) off to far and distant icy lands where the learnin’s tough and the pemmican’s tougher.  In Robert Way’s case they sent him to the worst of all places in winter:  Hell, Norway.

HellIn those days, Hell was under control of Utgard-Loki and the Frost Giants from the northern Jotunheimen Mountains.  Instead of being a place of fire and brimstone like under the previous administration, Hell had become a place of ice, snow, permafrost, glaciers and ice caps (known locally as the Cryosphere).  While not personally bothered by the cold and snow, Robert Way took pity on the locals who were forced to scavenge food from the nearby frozen river by cutting the river into blocks and carting those containing fish home on big poles stuck into the ice cubes (which is where we get fish sticks from).

Robert Way skated up the frozen Bifrost River into the southern Jotunheimen to have a few beers with Surtr and his Fire Giants.  Winning Surtr’s flaming sword in a game of chance (Surtr still claims the dice were loaded), Robert Way returned to Hell, setting the hilltops ablaze as he came.  Hell - WarmThis had the primary effect of driving off the Frost Giants as well as freeing Hell from its icy prison.  The secondary effects were the invention of the volcano and the cooking of the frozen fish-sticks (the local mayor, a former fishing boat captain named Long John of the Silver Hand, started a restaurant chain based on the new delicacy).

The celebration following the melting of Hell lasted many weeks and many kegs of mead, during which Robert Way was given the nickname The Cryosphere Kid.

The Cryosphere Kid nabs the Garfield Weston Award

Real life, while itself colorful, is more straightforward.  In it Robert Way is a master's student, studying at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is currently working on a study quantifying glacier changes in northern Labrador over the past 6000 years. Robert Way has studied at the University of Ottawa, University of Oslo, Athabasca University and the University of New Brunswick. He has conducted field work in Antarctica, Iceland, Labrador, Norway, Patagonia and Svalbard. As an Inuit descendent climate change is a very important issue for him and particularly how changes in the cryosphere impact daily life in the North.


As a result of his passion for his studies and his participation in CryoEx, Robert Way is one of seven master’s students from across Canada to be awarded a prestigious Garfield Weston Award for Northern Research.  Sponsored by the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, the $15,000 prize is awarded to students who demonstrate academic excellence and leadership in northern natural science research.

As the largest privately funded student awards that are specifically targeted for northern research in Canada, these awards have significantly raised the profile of northern research nationally and encouraged top-level graduate students to select a northern focus for their theses.

A native of Labrador and a student of geography, Robert Way’s research is centered around determining the Little Ice Age glacial extents in the Torngat Mountains and involves a combination of lichenometry (using lichen growth to determine the age of exposed rock), remote sensing and on the ground field measurements.

Ultimately, Robert Way hopes his research will help in piecing together a glacial history for the climatically sensitive region.  And he hopes to one day get another tuque.

Posted by Daniel Bailey on Saturday, 9 July, 2011

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