Field Notes from a Catastrophe book review

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:43 PM GMT on July 14, 2006

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Elizabeth Kolbert is a writer for the New Yorker magazine. A three-part series she wrote for the magazine in 2005 has been converted into a short, well-researched, and very readable book on climate change called, "Field Notes from a Catastrophe" ($15 from amazon.com). The science presented is excellent, and I couldn't find any errors. Kolbert visits leading climate change scientists in the field, spending time in the Arctic, Greenland, Dr. James Hansen's laboratory, and in United Nations climate change meetings. We get to see the science the way these scientists see it, which is a very powerful way to emphasize the major climate changes that are already underway on our planet.

Kolbert delivers a memorable description of a visit to Alaska, where record temperatures have begun melting permafrost that formed at the beginning of the last ice age, 120,000 years ago. She visits the remote island of Sarichef, five miles off the coast of the Seward Peninsula. A subsistence hunting village has existed there for centuries. However, the entire population of 591 must be relocated to the mainland because the island is eroding away. The problem? Lack of the customary sea ice in the fall has allowed storm surges from the powerful storms that hit during that season to push far inland. Kolbert talks to an Inuit hunter named John Keogak, who lives in Canada's Northwest Territories, 500 miles north of the Arctic circle. He and his fellow hunters started seeing robins for the first time a few years ago. The Inuits have no word for the bird in their language. Kolbert travels to "drunken forests" where the trees lean at crazy angles due to the collapse of the permafrost beneath. In one of many of the odd and amusing observations the book is sprinkled with, she writes:

A few blocks beyond the drunken forest, we came to a house where the front yard showed clear signs of ice wedge melt-off. The owner, trying to make the best of things, had turned the yard into a miniature golf course.

As the title implies, this is not a cheerful book, and Kolbert paints a gloomy picture of the how climate change is affecting the planet. I highly recommend the book for those interested in reading about climate change. Three and a half stars.

Jeff Masters

Permafrost Collapse (akalaska)
Climate change is causing rapid coastal erosion in the Arctic. As the permafrost melts, the land falls into the ocean. (Elson Lagoon, Barrow, Alaska)
Permafrost Collapse
Coastal Erosion (akalaska)
A scientist is taking high-precision GPS measurements of coastal erosion in the Arctic, due to melting permafrost. The coast is eroding at the rate of 3-12 feet per year.
Coastal Erosion

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223. txweather
2:15 PM CDT on July 14, 2006
gulf I have an archive, but am unsure how far the hurricane centers go. Years ago they had them on hard copy but unasseable but anybody else. how far back to you need.
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221. Weather456
3:14 PM AST on July 14, 2006
can someone tell me what is a permalink....
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211. thelmores
7:01 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
hey GULF...... you been "snortin" the catnip again! LOL
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208. Skyepony (Mod)
6:58 PM GMT on July 14, 2006

Credit NOAA

Highlights of NOAA's article covering temps. & percip. for the 1st 1/2 of the year.
July 14, 2006 — The average temperature for the continental United States from January through June 2006 was the warmest first half of any year since records began in 1895.

It was the second warmest June on record for global land- and ocean-surface temperatures since records began in 1880 (1.08 degrees F/0.60 degrees C above the 20th century mean) and the sixth warmest year-to-date (January-June) (0.90 degrees F/0.50 degrees C).

Another article of intrest NOAA had posted was NOAA ISSUES UNSCHEDULED UPDATE TO U.S. SEASONAL DROUGHT OUTLOOK


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207. thelmores
6:58 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
"thelmores....It will then be caught in the loop current and an Al Core will form immediately!"

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201. thelmores
6:52 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
"An impressive circulation just west of Tampa now on the vapor loop moving Westward.Need to watch this circulation also!!"

if this ULL you speak of, gets over the trough already in place......

then what! LOL
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199. ProgressivePulse
6:47 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Attack of the killer ULL's. Make them go away!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 4863
198. refill
2:45 PM AST on July 14, 2006
Anywere, the wave near Africa looks good
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197. refill
2:41 PM AST on July 14, 2006
of course not me!!!!
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192. hurricane23
6:35 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Guys Tropics are very Quiet today,and iam afraid they might remain that way for a while.I Expect things to pick up in August.We will see what happens..... adrian
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188. Weather456
2:31 PM AST on July 14, 2006
Today’s Question:
Do you feel that the 2005 Hurricane Season has to some degree ruined peoples perception of tropical activity?

Quote by Jphurricane: “Last year everything that was spotted developed within a day. I can remember many a year before last year where the NHC would have paid attention to alot more than they are this year.”


you can leave your comments at my blog about the question.
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183. refill
2:21 PM AST on July 14, 2006
well the tropics are quiet that's experts said... seflagamma I only made a comment about the wave near Africa. I don't know it that's wave wil be sheared away....that's afirmation will come from the experts not me..,.
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182. WSI
6:26 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Randrewl..

One link here..

Another here.


Pulled from the link directory at weathercore.com, under the Ocean Weather topic.

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180. thelmores
6:25 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
"i wouldnt call it obscene.... just stupid! LOL"

Maybe my pic was "stupid" too..... but at least it is weather related!
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179. SafeInTexas
6:24 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
First Half of 2006 Is Warmest on Record
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.