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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423. Alec
11:08 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
It's called EGO! Yes bob, my first storm on here was Emily last yr! Sure was the good ole times!
422. Bamatracker
11:08 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Well you have go give stormtop one thing...he certainly sticks to his story when he his right!
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 1367
421. highndry
11:05 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Is it just me or does Stormtop seem even more arrogant and cranky than usual today? I mean, seriously, what kind of prognostication is this? He's basically saying we're going to have a normal year. Well, given that we've got normal SSTs, normal shear, and otherwise normal conditions - yeah, makes sense to me. It's not written in stone - it's called playing the averages. Dealers in Vegas do this nightly. That's why the city exists. Let's see: normal year, normal chances of impacting in the most likely spots - so where does the surprise part come in? His big claim to fame: Katrina. Let's see: an intact hurricane makes it over Florida and onto the loop current in excessively warm waters with zero shear. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what comes next. Hell, I figured this out on my own by the time I saw her taking a southern track - difference is I'm not loudly patting myself on the back and trying desperately to look like an a$$hole for it. Stormtop, you wanna do some real prognostication, tell us where and when the first hurricane will strike and how strong it'll be, then sign your name to it and we'll grade ya on it.
420. weatherguy03
11:05 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
It was funny last year Supercell, ask Alec and Rocket. We kept telling him no way, it just cant break thru the ridge. But he was convinced of it. Oh well, it was fun though. Those were the good times.
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 592 Comments: 29707
419. Alec
11:05 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Hey supercell!

Yes, btw it's been one yr(since last mid-July) since I posted on here!
418. Bamatracker
11:05 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
guess i am stuck with this name:(

So what's going on..ST being his regular self i see!
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 1367
417. supercell216
11:03 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Really weatherguy03? LOL!!!! I did read his comments about a possible depression back in May!
416. supercell216
11:02 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
ST, water temperature doesn't affect where the waves move off the African coast. It has to do with the MJO, ITCZ and the trades.
415. weatherguy03
11:00 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
BTW, one year anniversary of Hurricane Emily, the one that Stormtop had going into Florida!..LOL
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 592 Comments: 29707
414. IKE
11:00 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
ST...sorry I missed you and your ego.

Geez what a grudge you hold..........
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
412. MichaelSTL
10:57 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
ALL HAIL STORMTOP

(rolls eyes)

He is an idiot - read what he said about a tropical depression, then storm developing around May 23, then saying that Alberto would hit Texas as a Category 1 hurricane. Oh, and who can foreget how he always wants a 180+ mph "Category 6" hurricane to hit New Orleans...
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
409. Bamatracker
10:47 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
hey everyone...This is Bamaweatherwatcher...but somehow my name got changed to Bamatracker when i logged on today!! Any idea how this happened?
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 1367
408. MichaelSTL
10:46 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
You can find buoy readings here - click on one of the areas outlined on the map.
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
407. chefjeff
10:46 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
plywood, Oh yeah! Usually in October. Kinda like the June storms.
406. MichaelSTL
10:45 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
I wonder if the tracks will reverse themselves and we will see storms come out of Central America and into the Gulf later this year.

Actually, the CMC is doing that now (this is the 00z run; the 12z run starts it in the Caribbean, with a similar track).
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
405. StellarCyclone
10:45 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
What's the best way to see pressure readings in the gulf and caribbean? Thanks in advance!
404. StellarCyclone
10:43 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Any thoughts on the blob off Nicaragua? Also there seems to be a lot of hot air coming from the Louisiana direction. I think I'll ignore it. :-)
403. plywoodstatenative
10:43 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Easy does it all, this is a new set up for a lot of people. It will take a little while for everyone here to get used to this system as well as the setup.
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
402. plywoodstatenative
10:41 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
jeff, the only real storms keep coming out of the gulf, across Central America and develop in the eastern pacific. I wonder if the tracks will reverse themselves and we will see storms come out of Central America and into the Gulf later this year.
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
401. seflagamma
10:40 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
This is something else to read! ROFL!!!

Easy does it guys....let's not take ourselves too seriously and respect everyone's different personalities and learn from all!

Gams
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 299 Comments: 40925
400. chefjeff
6:37 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
then remember how to spell remember
399. Alec
6:37 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Remember*.....what a slap in the face!...LOL Just contradicted my last post...LOL
398. Alec
6:34 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Rmember, there is a "preview" button so you can see what your post will look like before it gets posted on the blog..
397. chefjeff
6:32 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Yeah ! It's the truth. No real storms until mid August-Mid September.
396. WSI
10:29 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
GulfScotsman, Dr. M said not to post images greater than 200k in his blog. Else they would be marked as spam and removed. Remember, not everyone has broadband.
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395. Alec
6:28 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Too realistic?LOL
394. Weather456
6:26 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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393. chefjeff
6:22 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
alec, be careful, that statement is to realistic.
392. quakeman55
5:23 PM CDT on July 14, 2006
And maybe we can teach you how to shut up...
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390. STORMTOP
10:17 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
MICHAEL STL I WILL SAY THIS ONE MORE TIME FOR YOUR BENEFIT...THE REASON WHY THE WAVES ARE COMING OFF THE COAST OF AFRICA AT LOWER LATITUDES THIS YEAR IS BECAUSE OF THE WARN SST.. WHERE THEY USUALLY COME OUT AT 12 DEGREES THE WATER TEMPS ARE THE COOLEST...CAPICHE HAS IT SUNK IN YET DO YOU KNOW HOW TO READ MAPS..MAYBE YOU NEED A LESSON FROM ALECS COMPUTER MODELS LOL....I WILL SAY THIS ONE MORE TIME MY FRIENDS AND IT IS WRITTEN IN STONE...THEIR WILL BE NO STORMS IN JULY AND THE FIRST HURRICANE WILL BE IN AUGUST.....NOW CHOW IM GOING TO EAT AT EMERALDS ON ST CHARLES IF YOU ALL WANT TO MEET ME THERE..MAYBE I CAN TEACH YOU A LITTLE ABOUT THE TROPICS ....StormTop
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389. Alec
6:15 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
I sure did listen ST!LOL It is no surprise that water over near Africa is cool(so early into the season).............It takes time for the sun's radiation to warm those waters. As the warm water on the surface mix with relatively cooler water from below, it takes until Aug/Sept for maximum heating....
388. MichaelSTL
5:13 PM CDT on July 14, 2006
the water teps have not reached 80 degrees in most spots

LOL!

So this map is wrong? Or, do you mean 80 degrees Celcius?
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
387. JFLORIDA
10:11 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Alberto probably at one point was a cat 1 hurricane. The overwhelming “lesson” here probably is not to listen exclusively to any one source – or - you will nearly always be wrong and surprised. Right ST?
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386. quakeman55
5:14 PM CDT on July 14, 2006
Posted By: STORMTOP at 4:30 PM EDT on May 23, 2006.
no question about it .the depression will form sometime friday or saturday..you guys will start changing your tunes by friday...

That's funny...I must have missed that depression, even though I've kept up with the tropics every single day since May.
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385. floodzonenc
10:09 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
You're right, Junkman... he'll hang himself soon enough.

Speaking of tracking, the NHC did a great job IMO with ALberto. Will be interesting to see how they do the rest of the year compared to other models.
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384. StormJunkie
10:11 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
learn hot to read a w/v imagery satellite pic the dust is scattered all over out in the atlantic and the water teps have not reached 80 degrees in most spots thats why the waves are coming off the coast near 8 degrees and falling apart when they climb in latitude

Wow substanence from ST. I am actually impressed, a little. Though the approach still sucks.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
383. Alec
6:10 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
LOL flood........I always seemed to be the one behind my generation(technologically speaking)....having a wireless laptop is the first step in the right direction! But glad these blogs dont take an hour to load with this new page layout...
382. JFLORIDA
9:58 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
The Flob ULL keeps moving down the trough. I think its going to come a-lose from the Caribbean wave and what will be the center will start moving west out of Fort Myers. Its still not all that. Hold on to your seats and I will post another update later.
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381. STORMTOP
10:04 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
alberto should of never been named by the NHC...they named it on the kind of katrina and they did not want to catch people off guard like they did with katrina..alberto barely had 35 mph winds lol what a shoo shoo...reminds me of some of you guys in here with every blob you see you think its going to the east coast as a major hurricane...the one that mentioned the dust was gone a couple of posts back you better learn hot to read a w/v imagery satellite pic the dust is scattered all over out in the atlantic and the water teps have not reached 80 degrees in most spots thats why the waves are coming off the coast near 8 degrees and falling apart when they climb in latitude...just a lesson fotr you beginners in here...alec i hope you heard this also ...StormTop
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380. floodzonenc
10:03 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
I'm off to hunt and gather some supper.

Y'all be good (especially YOU Alec)... I'll probably poke around later on to see what's happening.

By the way, Alec, that was real funny about the "wireless" comment. YOU KNOW that I live so far out in the country that even our cordless phones aren't wireless... rub it in, city boy! (LOL!) LATER!
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379. StormJunkie
10:04 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
For those who may not already know this, let me clue you in to ST, and why to just let him be.

He always throws out "written in stone" forecasts, at least this year he is not trying to impersonate the NHC as of yet.

His forecasts may be true sometimes.

He WILL hang himself soon enough, so don't don't worry too much about trying to proove him wrong.

He sucks at forecasting track, with the exception of Katrina. My opinion.

His approach is just plain laughable, so while you are waiting for him to hang himself just bust his chops on his technique.

Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
378. StormJunkie
10:02 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Posted By: floodzonenc at 9:58 PM GMT on July 14, 2006.
LOL at GS and SJ!


What did I say that was funny?

GS needs the credit for that one. Attacked himself as well as others, conceded a point, and put me ROTFLMAO.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
377. quakeman55
5:03 PM CDT on July 14, 2006
Shall we go dig out his ludicrous "Alberto will turn NW towards Texas there is no way it will go over Florida" predictions? Maybe that'll scare him off again...seemed to last time we did it.
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376. quakeman55
5:01 PM CDT on July 14, 2006
I HAVE BEEN ON THE BALL SINCE JUNE 1 AND I HAVE THE TROPICS THIS YEAR IN MY HANDS

(ahem) Are you forgetting about Alberto?

Right guys??
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375. Alec
5:59 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Oh dont rub it in Stormtop......I know A LOT of forecasters that have predicted this early in the season will be slower than last yr.....By the way, a slow start is quite normal too....
374. STORMTOP
9:53 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
no gulfscotsman it makes me 3 things..........
1 WISER
2MORE KNOWLEDGEABLE
3MORE ACCURATE
SO GET OVER IT MAN IM RIGHT THERE WILL NOT BE A STORM IN JULY AND THAT MY FRIEND IS WRITTEN IN STONE..YOU CAN CALL ME COCKY OR ANYTHING YOU WANT I HAVE BEEN ON THE BALL SINCE JUNE 1 AND I HAVE THE TROPICS THIS YEAR IN MY HANDS..I TOLD YOU GUYS I WILL TELL YOU WHEN TO WORRY AND THAT WILL BE IN AUGUST WHEN WE FINALLY GET OUR FIRST HURRICANE OF THE SEASON...CAPICHE!!!!!!!!!!StormTop
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373. Alec
5:56 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Hey SJ, I think the Gulf and East Coast waters are going to get warmer as a result of all the hot weather(and more to come this weekend). With waves and disturbances riding over water, the water will mix and therefore, the heat content will be building...

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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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