Review of the book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe
- Introduction to Climate Change
- The IPCC Report on Climate Change
- The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change
- Extreme Weather
- Sea Level Rise
- Arctic Sea Ice
- The Science of Abrupt Climate Change
- The Effect of Nuclear War On Climate
- Global Warming Causes Stratospheric Cooling
- Ozone Hole
- PETM: Global Warming, Naturally
- Heat Mortality
- Acid Oceans
Snow and Ice
- Arctic Sea Ice
- The Northwest Passage Opens
- Polar Bears
- Permafrost In a Warming World
Climate Change Opinion
- Don't Shoot the Messenger
- More CO2 = Healthier Planet?
- Hacked Climate Scientist Emails
- The Manufactured Doubt Industry
- Is Carbon Dioxide a Pollutant?
- The Skeptics vs. the Ozone Hole
- Dr. Jeff Masters' Opinions Page
Book and Movie Reviews
Residents of New England may understandably look back at 2015 as the year of their never-ending winter. For the planet as a whole, though, this year could stand out most for putting to rest the “hiatus”— the 15-year slowdown in atmospheric warming that gained intense scrutiny by pundits, scientists, and the public. The slowdown was preceded by almost 20 years of dramatic global temperature rise, and there are signs that another decade-plus period of intensified warming may be at our doorstep.
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.
Melting permafrost at Elson Lagoon, Barrow, Alaska. Photo by wunderphotographer akalaska on August 11, 2005.