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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523. stormhank
2:27 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
thanks micheal for sst info. the forecasts that more storms will affect the east coast rather than the gulf this year... does anyone feel that will happen?
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522. Weather456
10:28 PM AST on July 14, 2006
night all!!!!!

This will be one quiet season......Dont forget to pass at my blog...to take look back at Hurricane Emily.

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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520. weatherguy03
10:18 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
I have been in Florida for 14 years and just got there a few years ago..LOL
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 592 Comments: 29704
518. ProgressivePulse
2:15 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
You believe I have lived here in SFL for 4 1/2 years now and haven't been to the Bahamas yet, pathetic.
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517. weatherguy03
10:14 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
I see a sheared area of T-storms, maybe a weak trough there. Way too much shear in that area. But on a night like this, its something!..LOL
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 592 Comments: 29704
516. ProgressivePulse
2:13 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Wasn't there earlier, getting into it more though now, insignificant.
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515. ProgressivePulse
2:11 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Funny 03 just seeing some rotation there.
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514. owlhootflorida
2:05 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Hey chef, part of me was already here before the arrival of hordes from Europe and the Mediterranean, but part of me did chance the water also. Dad was in the Navy, I was in the Army. I'm a landlubber, but maybe I'll venture a sail someday.
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513. weatherguy03
10:10 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
PP, its the Bahamas, I take a cruise there every now and then. Great place to visit!
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 592 Comments: 29704
511. stormhank
2:05 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
are the current SST's below . near or above normal across the atlantic basin? I've herd that they r below what they were last year at this time
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510. owlhootflorida
1:50 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Thanks Skyepony.

If 200 supertankers were taken out in 20 years, then how many lesser craft may have been consumed? Only their creator knows. Pretty interesting stuff.
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509. ProgressivePulse
2:03 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Sorry I have been out! Anyone peeking at 22N 74W. Appreciate a little insight!
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508. Bamatracker
2:02 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Before everyone starts dropping the forecast take a look at 2004. 15 storms and the 'A" storm didnt form until july 31. So by that season, which was pretty bad, we are already ahead of schedule!
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507. stormhank
2:00 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
gray has missed in the past also , especially the year 1997 when that major ElNino developed
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506. chefjeff
9:54 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
I'll go out on a limb. 4 major possible 17 named no. Okay you want to know how many.
10. I'm taking a chance on that because NHC tacks some names on subtropical storms late in the season.
504. stormhank
1:52 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
anyone feel that this season will be as active as NOAA said it would be on june 1st? 17 named storms n 4 major?
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503. chefjeff
9:45 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
owlhootflorida, Sail your ship. We wouldn't be here if rogue sailors from Europe hadn't made the trip. You see, they didn't fall off the edge.
502. Skyepony (Mod)
1:32 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Rogue waves~ that was a fun ship ride.lol That's some pics & some I think are just rough seas.

Here's some info on rogue waves. Here's the wikipedia version. This was good too

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 162 Comments: 37822
501. stormhank
1:46 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
hey alec hows it goin bro?
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500. Baybuddy
1:38 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Why all the fussin and feudin?
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499. turtlehurricane
1:35 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
hurricane23, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. please do research before mangling the terms.
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498. owlhootflorida
1:28 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Can you imagine being in any size boat met with a 120-180 foot wave, or waves, that they say occur much more frequently than they thought? Thank you, no. The queen can shove it.
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497. chefjeff
9:32 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
It would take a major earthquake somewhere in the Atlantic to create a Tsunami. The scary thing about that is there is no warning. (on the earthquake). Darn short notice if a tsunami was formed. Gooooooooooood luck !
496. chefjeff
9:18 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
owlhootflorida, The New York Times is Rouge in itself. Sounds crazy to me. But nothing's impossible. I do like the crossword.
495. hurricane23
9:18 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Guys Unfortunately no matter how much you look and how hard you try to find something in those few cumulous clouds that spot the Atlantic, conditions are unfavorable across the entire Atlantic Basin from Florida to Africa.

The tropics are closed for business with no end in sight right now. The TUTT needs to leave and shear needs to relax not to mention the SAL is very dominating and the MJO core is still in the EPAC Trying slowly to make its way into the atlantic basin.

If you look back at the active years which started in 1995 we avg about 15 storms a year. Since I believe we are still in the active phase then things should ramp up starting in August. There is also a slight negative relationship between inactive early seasons and active later seasons, that is an inactive early season could mean a strong finish. We will see what happens in the next couple of weeks. Adrian
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494. PBG00
1:10 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Hey everyone..I think July will be a dud..quiet till the end, August and september might get a bit crazy if the shear dies down..Maybe crazy will be good. Give people something to talk about other than arguing all the time. Lets not forget that Aug and september are the peak..Thats when the monsters form. way too early to write off the season.
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493. chefjeff
9:10 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
hurricane23, apology accepted. It just came after the little rip I wrote.
492. hurricane23
9:10 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
chefjeff i was talkin about ST.
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491. owlhootflorida
12:53 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
What if ST and cyclonebuster were the same person? One is calling the shots of where it's going (ST Weather Service) and the other is trying to save us from it (tunnels). Both rile right many of you. This season is going to be a doozy for sure.

I'm only going to make one prediction. There will be storms. How's that for accuracy?

I have a question for one of the knowledgeable. I recently read an article in the NY Times (online) regarding rogue waves. It shivered me timbers. I don't even want to take that sailboat ride I've always wanted to take now. I guess it would be pretty exciting for a little while. Anyway...what would keep a rogue wave from say, engulfing Bermuda? What keeps it from interacting with land like a tsunami?
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490. chefjeff
9:04 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Never wrote a curse word ! Rude, to some of you possibly !
489. bappit
12:58 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Posted By: WunderYakuza (Admin) at 1:38 PM EDT on July 05, 2006.

I'd like to ask everyone to stop the "First Post" contest in this blog. It serves nothing and is an annoyance. Please flag these comments as Spam. Thanks.


Somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. This is nothing compared to Stormtup yet he remains. Besides I find it sets a happy tone. Maybe rxse7en is right.

Stormtop must be Dr. Masters' alter-ego! Why else would he be allowed to stay on here and insult people?! :D



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488. hurricane23
8:55 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
I have never seen someone sooooo rude!Were are all adults here i think?But everytime i see u post ur always either curseing or just being flat out rude to someone why is that?
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487. chefjeff
8:38 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
This is totally asinine ! People, I'm assuming adults, arguing about who is the better forecaster. There isn't anyone who can be right about any of this PERIOD !!!! Close maybe
but right on would be a luck call.
486. bappit
12:49 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Gums: Easy does it guys....let's not take ourselves too seriously and respect everyone's different personalities and learn from all!

And if you can't have respect, at least have understanding.

LOL!
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485. Bamatracker
12:52 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
pcolabob i know your probably not up in arms mad. Yea ST does get old pretty quick..escpically when we are having a good educational disscussion on here.
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484. pcolabob
12:46 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Bamatracker

Not angry I am just very tired of ST thinking he runs this blog and he knows more than everybody else. I no for a fact that I dont know it all that is why I am on this blog, to learn more about a hobby that I love and people
like St make it hard to do. Maybe some one said it best earlier(I dont remember who) that ST just does this for the attention and if we quit rep. to him he would quit. So am going to try my best not to,in the future.
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483. hurricane23
8:40 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Guys Unfortunately no matter how much you look and how hard you try to find something in those few cumulous clouds that spot the Atlantic, conditions are unfavorable across the entire Atlantic Basin from Florida to Africa.

The tropics are closed for business with no end in sight right now. The TUTT needs to leave and shear needs to relax not to mention the SAL is very dominating and the MJO core is still in the EPAC Trying slowly to make its way into the atlantic basin.

If you look back at the active years which started in 1995 we avg about 15 storms a year. Since I believe we are still in the active phase then things should ramp up starting in August. There is also a slight negative relationship between inactive early seasons and active later seasons, that is an inactive early season could mean a strong finish. We will see what happens in the next couple of weeks. Adrian



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482. Bamatracker
12:32 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
pcolabob is very angry stormtop..you better apologize.
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481. pcolabob
12:26 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
ST
This is in reponse to your post at 10:04pm today.this is when you said Alberto should
never been named( this from the guy that had it moving west and becoming a hurricnae) . I guess now you think you are better than the met. officer aboard the recon plane( oh I forgot you fly a recon plane into storms in the gulf for your "weather office").You also
told me (because I believe it was my post you were ref. in youre post),I better learn how( but you spelled it hot)to read a WV loop.well I
am telling you better look again because I know moist air is a milky white and dry air is black or even orange when is very dry, and the air off of africa is very moist now. The sst are reason they are not dev. right now, but they still have a chance when they come west and the shear weakens later on next week.I bel. the wave that came off african cst. today will del. (and if it does you will have as cat10 going to se la)as MJO comes east and the wave comes west, of course this is not written in stone because I am not an egotistical #$@ hole like you ST.
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480. punkasshans
12:26 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
owlhootflorida,

I think it is save to say ST is under EVERYONE's skin here. I really do get some good humour from it. And thanks for the compliments, to whomever you were directing the 'knowledgeable' comment to.
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479. punkasshans
12:22 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
cantore is my hero too. . but in regards to your burst of convection: it looks like really strong shear over the cell, and also only looks like a thunderstorm that built off of convection from the island nearby.
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478. owlhootflorida
12:10 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Hello all. I've been following you for awhile now. I reside in Miami, Florida.

Some of you are truly hilarious. Some of you are playing games. Many of you are very knowledgeable, and I have learned much since I've been reading this blog. Most of you are interesting. ST has all of you buffaloed. Right or wrong, you're all talking about him.

I have no weather credentials, nor am I a savant weather god. I am a very interested observer obviously, given my locale.
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477. Alec
8:22 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Hey punk, I said I wasn't returning for the season.......but this yr trying it out again!(but much more sparingly) Good to see you too...
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476. punkasshans
12:17 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Alec, I remember you too. I thought you said you were never coming back, or something like that, yet here you are. (Which isnt a bad thing)

I think its safe to say the CMC is the outlier, no other model has yet to pick it up (except the NOGAPS which has a wave located there)
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475. cantoremyhero
12:20 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
What's up with the new burst of convection north of Hispaniola? What is the shear in that area?
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474. StormJunkie
12:12 AM GMT on July 15, 2006
Thanks SIT
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473. txweather
7:09 PM CDT on July 14, 2006
For the record 2 storms have formed in the Pacific and later moved into the Gulf.

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

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