Want to know what the North Pole is really like? We asked an Arctic researcher.

When Richard Krishfield began his career fixing office equipment, he had no idea it would take him to the ends of the Earth.

Then, in 1986, Krishfield, who had spent years working on computers and electronics for businesses, was asked down to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) in Massachusetts to work on one of their instruments — a conductivity, temperature, and depth (or CTD) device that collects data from its seat on the ocean floor.

It wasn't the work Krishfield was used to, but it offered an intriguing promise of adventure.


"I thought well, jeez, it might be kind of fun to work on ships and travel the world for a few years," Krishfield says over the phone. 30 years later, he's still doing it.

WHOI researchers in Greenland in 2013. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

For over 80 years, the WHOI has been at the forefront of oceanographic study and innovation. Their scientists, engineers, and innovators routinely travel around the globe — from oil spill sites to exotic coastal shores to underwater volcanoes — collecting valuable data and learning how our world works.

Krishfield's work with the WHOI has brought him to some of the world's most extreme places, including the North Pole.

Unlike the iconic images of a massive, globe-spanning, elf-employing, gift-making, reindeer-housing operation run by a jolly man in a red suit, the real North Pole is home to navigators and researchers who brave some of the coldest weather on the planet in the name of science.

Though some have been known to dress up as Santa while they're there:

Wouldn't you? Photo via Richard Krishfield, used with permission.

Living and working at the North Pole is an intense experience that takes a physical toll on those who venture out there.

Every year, Krishfield and his team spend months at a time camping out in the Arctic, setting up advanced observation instruments that send real-time data back to the WHOI. "Basically they’re sending back what you might consider the weather of the ocean," says Krishfield. And setting them up is no easy task.

"You’re living in a tent on the ice," says Krishfield. "And you don't have things like forklifts, so you have to muscle heavy equipment on and off small airplanes." Those airplanes land on makeshift runways that are cleared out by workers, too. In order for the ice to be thick enough to land a plane on, most of the work has to happen when it's as cold as possible.

"You have to get acclimated to the minus-20 or minus-30 degree temperatures and dress appropriately and know what to do," Krishfield says.

It's not exactly campfire songs and s'mores. Photo via Richard Krishfield, used with permission.

Over his 30-year career, Krishfield has seen firsthand just how much the Arctic is changing.

"Obviously the ice is melting," he says. "And in the 30 years I’ve been going up there, it's very clear how much."

One of the instruments Krishfield has helped set up is a buoy that sits on ice floes and dangles sensors into the water below to measure temperature, salinity, and current velocity of the ocean. When he first started installing them, he and his team would look for ice floes that were up to 4 meters thick.

"Then after a couple years we were looking for 2- to 3-meter floes," says Krishfield. "Then we were looking for 1-and-ahalf to 1-meter floes, and then this last summer, we were out there, and there was hardly any thick ice at all."

A plane flies over ice in Greenland. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Of course, Krishfield and the scientific community have been reporting shrinking ice in the Arctic for a long time. Studies confirmed long ago that the Arctic is warming, that the ice is melting, and just how catastrophic the result of that could be for the Earth's climate and ecosystems.

If the Arctic becomes a seasonal ice cap (where ice melts during the summer and refreezes during the winter), it could throw the planet's weather systems into utter chaos. Scientists estimate that could be the case by 2050.

"Probably sooner than that," says Krishfield.

You don't need to look at satellite data to see how much the Arctic has changed, Krishfield says.

"I look back and think of all the trips we used to do back in the summertime ... it was really beautiful out there," he recalls. "It’d be bright and sunny, and it was just beautiful."

"Now that the ice has melted away quite a bit, what you end up having is very grey, dull, dreary, and sort of foggy days out there. So the whole climate of it has changed."

A glacier in the Arctic Ocean. Photo by Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images.

It's hard to imagine that human beings could have any effect on the North Pole — as far away from it as we are — but we can and we do.

Arctic sea ice loss has been directly linked to carbon emissions, and saving the Arctic is a matter of cutting down those emissions quickly and dramatically. The North Pole is so extreme and so far away that we hardly ever think about it — let alone wrestle with the true global impact of what would happen if we let it melt. Odds are, the North Pole only comes up in conversation around Christmas — and not exactly in a "lets save the Arctic ice cap" context.

If you find hope in one thing though, consider the fact that human beings really can have an impact on the Arctic, for worse — or for better. Our actions have brought the Arctic Ocean to the brink, but it's the actions we take next, along with the hard work of scientists and researchers like Krishfield, that save it.

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All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

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Tory Burch

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This March marks one year since the start of the pandemic… and it's been an incredibly difficult year: Over 500,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. But the pandemic's economic downturn has been disproportionately affecting women because they are more likely to work in hard-hit industries, such as hospitality or entertainment, and many of them have been forced to leave their jobs due to the lack of childcare.

But throughout all that hardship, women have, over and over again, found ways to help one another and solve problems.

"Around the world, women have stepped up and found ways to help where it is needed most," says Tory Burch, an entrepreneur who started her own business in 2004.

Burch knows a thing or two about empowering women: After seeing the many obstacles that women in business face — even before the pandemic — she created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to empower women entrepreneurs.

And now, for International Women's Day, her company is launching a global campaign with Upworthy to celebrate the women around the world who give back and create real change in their communities.

"I hope the creativity and resilience of these women, and the amazing ways they have found to have real impact, will inspire and energize others as much as they have me," Burch says.

This year's Empowered Women certainly are inspiring:

Shalini SamtaniCourtesy of Shalini Samtani

Take, for example, Shalini Samtani. When her daughter was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder, she spent a lot of time in the hospital, which caused her to quickly realize that there wasn't a single company in the toy industry servicing the physical or emotional needs of the 3 million hospitalized children across America every year. She was determined to change that — so she created The Spread the Joy Foundation to deliver free play kits to pediatric patients all around the country.

Varsha YajmanCourtesy of Varsha Yajman

Varsha Yajman is another one of this year's nominees. She is just 18 years old, and yet she has been diligently fighting to build awareness and action for climate justice for the last seven years by leading school strikes, working as a paralegal with Equity Generations Lawyers, and speaking to CEOs from Siemen's and several big Australian banks at AGMs.

Caitlin MurphyCourtesy of Caitlin Murphy

Caitlin Murphy, meanwhile, stepped up in a big way during the pandemic by pivoting her business — Global Gateway Logistics — to secure and transport over 2 million masks to hospitals and senior care facilities across the country. She also created the Gateway for Good program, which purchased and donated 10,000 KN95 masks for local small businesses, charities, cancer patients and their families, immunocompromised, and churches in the area.

Simone GordonCourtesy of Simone Gordon

Simone Gordon, a domestic violence survivor and single mom, wanted to pay it forward after she received help getting essentials and tuition assistance — so she created the Instagram account @TheBlackFairyGodMotherOfficial and nonprofit to provide direct assistance to families in need. During the pandemic alone, they have raised over $50,000 for families and they have provided emergency assistance — in the form of groceries — for numerous women and families of color.

Victoria SanusiCourtesy of Victoria Sanusi

Victoria Sanusi started Black Gals Livin' with her friend Jas and the podcast has been an incredibly powerful way of destigmatizing mental health for numerous listeners. The podcast quickly surpassed a million listens, was featured on Michaela Coel's "I May Destroy You," won podcast of the year at the Brown Sugar Awards, and was named one of Elle Magazine's best podcasts of 2020.

And Upworthy and the Tory Burch are just getting started. They are still searching the globe for more extraordinary women who are making an impact in their communities.

Do you know one? If you do, nominate her now. If she's selected, she could receive $5,000 to give to a nonprofit of her choice through the Tory Burch Foundation. Submissions are being accepted on a rolling basis — and one Empowered woman will be selected each month starting in April.

Nominate her now at www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen.