Documentary, 4K, stereo, color, ca. 56 min.

The Big Thaw (work-in-progress)

Could microscopic particles from thawing permafrost entering into the atmosphere be the tipping point that will soon alter our weather forever? Four atmospheric scientists from Colorado State University travel to Arctic Alaska in search of the answer.

THE BIG THAW is a character-driven documentary focusing on the four scientists from the ARCSPIN Expedition – the ambitious young American Arctic researcher and principal investigator Jessie Creamean (37), her self-deprecating Australian colleague Tom Hill (62), graduate student Kevin Barry (27), Spanish post-doc researcher Marina Nieto-Caballero (28) – and their indigenous support crews as they conduct cutting-edge research in the northernmost point of the United States: Utqiagvik, Alaska. 


Over a five-week period, Jessie and her team brave polar bears, high winds, choppy waters, endless mud holes, and snowstorms to collect dozens of permafrost cores and hundreds of samples from the air, lakes, rivers and coastal ocean water to support their hypothesis: that microbes from thawing permafrost are seeping into lakes, rivers and coastal waters and then being swept up into the atmosphere as ice-nucleating particles. These in turn are increasingly freezing clouds, which quickly release precipitation and dissipate, triggering flash floods and reducing the overall cloud cover essential for reflecting sunlight back into the atmosphere and slowing global warming.


With unrestricted access to the ARCSPIN team at work and play, we gain an intimate look at the daily life of research scientists. Geared toward general audiences, THE BIG THAW strives to enlighten and entertain by making scientists and their research exciting, comprehensible, and accessible to a non-scientific community. Ultimately, THE BIG THAW will show how what is happening in the Arctic impacts the entire planet, and how the only way to master the challenges climate change is posing to humanity is to take a global approach.

Rick kept a video diary during the expedition. Watch all thirty-one videos on the Big Thaw playlist. And while you’re at it, please subscribe to Rick’s YouTube channel. Thanks!
Would your organization like to host a virtual or in-person event with “The Big Thaw”? Then please complete this form and email it to us at: Our team will get back to you with a quote within a few days.

The research documented in this film was supported by the National Science Foundation.

In support of the United Nations’ Sustainability Development Goals.

Writer / Director / Cinematographer / Producer Rick Minnich
Production Our Man In Berlin
In-kind support Ludwig Kameraverleih / Beazy