“Distinguished Professor, Leading Climatologist Lonnie Thompson Subject of ‘Canary’ Film Premiering Friday” by Wendy Wang.

Lonnie Thompson, distinguished Ohio State professor and leading climatologist, during his 2019 Huascarán expedition with the Ice Core Paleoclimatology Research Group. Credit: Courtesy of Ellen Mosley-Thompson

A new documentary, titled “Canary,” is set to premiere Friday at Gateway Film Center, and Ohio State’s very own Lonnie Thompson is its star.

The film profiles Thompson — a distinguished university professor in the School of Earth Sciences as well as a research scientist at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center — and his extensive international career studying glaciers and climate change, according to Gateway’s website.

Gateway’s website also stated Q&As with Thompson and his wife, Ellen Mosley-Thompson — a distinguished university professor of geography at Ohio State and a senior research scientist at the research center — will take place after Friday’s 1:30 p.m., screening and Sunday’s 7 p.m. screening.

Mosley-Thompson said the name “Canary” is a historical allusion, referring to how coal miners ventured into mines with caged canary birds throughout the 1900s. If a canary showed signs of distress or died, miners would know there was a dangerous amount of carbon monoxide in the air – meaning an explosion could be imminent.

“The idea is that the mountain glaciers around the world that are well documented to be retreating, they serve as a canary for us that something’s wrong in our climate, that these glaciers that have existed for tens of thousands of years are starting to respond to something that’s causing them to melt,” Mosley-Thompson said. “And that something is the fact that our climate is warming.”

Mosley-Thompson said the documentary primarily recounts Thompson’s history with the Ice Core Paleoclimatology Research Group, including its many worldwide expeditions to obtain ice core data. After extracting ice cylinders from the ground, Mosley-Thompson said the research team can analyze the cores’ physical and chemical properties to provide evidence of global warming and other climate change processes.

Thompson said he hopes “Canary” can foster a sense of resolve across generations, from younger people to older individuals.

“Scientists are human beings. We have the same challenges that everyone has,” Thompson said. “I hope the movie inspires people that despite the challenges, you can meet those challenges, you can overcome them and you should never give up. You have to keep trying.”

Based on his career observations, Thompson said 2023 is likely to be earth’s warmest year on record. Even though this conclusion seems bleak, the documentary conveys what individuals can do to make a difference and inspires people to demand change, Thompson said.

“You don’t have to have the same culture, you don’t have to have the same beliefs, but you have to realize that we all face a common enemy, which is a climate crisis,” Thompson said. “And the only way we’re going to solve that is to work together to find the solutions.”

Annalise Khandelwal, a fourth-year in environmental science and deputy director of Climate Advocacy for Ohio State’s Undergraduate Student Government, is hosting an on-campus streaming event for the documentary at the Wexner Center for the Arts Film/Video Theater Oct. 2.

The audience can enjoy vegetarian and vegan hors d’oeuvres from 5-6 p.m. Thompson and Mosley-Thompson — who will both be in attendance — will share a word at 6:15 p.m., and the documentary screening begins at 6:30 p.m., Khandelwal said in an email.

Khandelwal said her passion for climate science and education led her to organize the on-campus viewing of “Canary.” In addition, Khandelwal said she hopes the documentary can help bridge the knowledge gap between Ohio State’s broader student body and the research center’s ongoing work.

“Because of the current state of our earth, it is important to me that everyone at The Ohio State University is able to become aware of Lonnie’s, Ellen’s and the rest of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center’s fight against the climate crisis in an accessible manner,” Khandelwal said.

She said this event is free of charge but registration is required. The link is provided here.

Tickets to “Canary” showings at Gateway can be purchased via the film center’s website.