Field Notes from a Catastrophe book review

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

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 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

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

Log In or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 173 - 123

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17Blog Index

169. FLCrackerGirl
2:17 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
A Programing Note If Interested In
Sea Turtles....
Live Webcast of a Sea Turtle Nesting
Scheduled Tonight Friday 7/14 9:30PM EST

Additional Details & Links Available on My Blog
or Visit CCCTurtle.Org
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
168. thelmores
6:16 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
i wouldnt call it obscene.... just stupid! LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
167. Tannim
1:17 PM CDT on July 14, 2006
I think Gulf is studying the effect of too much scotch in the afternoon.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
166. zyzygy
6:16 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Below is a link to NHC Sea Surface Temperature analysis:

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
163. EdMahmoud
6:13 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
As seen from a databuoy East of Brownsville, TX, there is a pretty wide swing diurnal swing in SSts
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
161. ProgressivePulse
6:14 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Locals in West Palm were thinking the wave was going to stay south of us, I'm not so sure anymore. More rain! sheesh.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
159. thelmores
6:09 PM GMT on July 14, 2006

looks like we are getting some shear from the nw..... if the shear gets high enough, it may "expose" the fact that there "appears" to be a circulation below those high clouds.....

guess we'll see! :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
157. EdMahmoud
5:43 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Just looked out the window.

A category 6 sea breeze front shower approaching downtown Houston.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
154. thelmores
5:50 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
"oops. Thanks thel. I forgot to metnion he was talking about large pics. My bad :("

no fret bro, in reality, i think Dr. Masters doesnt care if it is a picture, how "physically" big the picture is, as long as it doesnt totally screw up the margins, or if it is an animated gif like the one that GULF posted.... the "only" concerned, is "the actual byte size"..... which doesnt necessarilly have anything to do with the physical size of the picture/gif.

for example, at "low quality", a 200kb picture may be huge... but the same 200kb pic at "high quality" may be tiny..... so you have two images, both the same byte size (200kb), yet one is huge, and the other tiny.....

hope this clears things up.... thanks

imagecop! LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
153. StormJunkie
5:44 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Rand, the AVHRR maps in my blog are sat dervied, and Ithink that most of the human colored ones like on the WU tropical page are sat derived. I think once they start getting above about 82 to 84 that is plenty hot. Sorry got to run. Will look in to this more later.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
149. oriondarkwood
12:41 PM EST on July 14, 2006
Gather around all its time for freaky friday questions:

1. Would you rather sleep under, in or on top of a outhouse?

2. Will homo sapien ever mutate or develop the X gene (ie X-men)?

3. What is the biggest item you can stick in your belly button?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
148. StormJunkie
5:38 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
oops. Thanks thel. I forgot to metnion he was talking about large pics. My bad :(

Sorry ya'll and see ya later
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
147. Weather456
1:37 PM AST on July 14, 2006
you can post comments at blog or emial me.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
145. Weather456
1:37 PM AST on July 14, 2006
Todays 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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
144. FLCrackerGirl
1:36 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Getting Back to Work BBiB..

But One Last Cape Verde Storm to Consider:
Long Island Express/NE Hurricane 1938
Forward Speed of 70mph, Moving from NC to NY in just over 12 hours.
Cat3 struck a 3:30pm (Rush Hour) & at High Tide.
50mile wide Eye & Largest Storm to ever strike New England.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
142. thelmores
5:32 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
correction! GULF just blew it outta the water at over 528kb! LOL

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
140. thelmores
5:09 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
"Ya'll try and remember the Dr asked us to keep pictures to a minimum. some do still have dial up. Links work just as well though."

actually, what Dr. Masters said was......
"Posting big images
Please do try to keep any images you post in the comments less than 200K, in respect for dial-up users."

as far as i can tell, since Dr. Masters posted this, there have been NO violations of this policy.......
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
139. StormJunkie
5:29 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Thanks FLCG :) and afternoon.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1:28 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Ed - Better late than never! At least Israel has the "testicular fortitude" to do what needs to be done!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
136. FLCrackerGirl
1:21 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Major Cape Verde Storms 1900-2005
from wikipedia
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
134. Yamson
5:20 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Another comment re: oil shale in Colorado... They have tapped the region before in the late 1970's and early 1980's (some of us older folk may remember the "Energy Crisis" of that time). Probably fewer remember that the region experienced an oil "bust" because it suddenly became very unprofitable when oil prices fell back in the early to mid 1980's. Oil shale is very expensive and energy-intensive to process into crude oil. It may take some technilogical development to make it a more enduring source of energy for the US.

article reference here
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
130. FLCrackerGirl
1:16 PM EDT on July 14, 2006
Besides Ivan, Frances, Karl & Danielle
were All Major Cape Verde Storms in 2004.
Frances was another LLOONNGG Lived Storm
& at landfall was just below Major. What An Endless Storm!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
127. thelmores
5:09 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Posted By: thelmores at 11:58 AM CDT on July 14, 2006.


what did i do? LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
126. EdMahmoud
5:00 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Breaking News (for all of those who, like me, where in the military when Hezb'Allah killed 240 Marines and sailors in Beirut

IAF missiles strike Hezb'Allah headquarters in Beirut.

Almost 25 years too late, but better late than never.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
124. HurricaneMyles
5:05 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Better yet, here's a quote straight from the 1st paragraph of the NHC report.

"Ivan was a classical, long-lived Cape Verde hurricane that reached Category 5 strength three times on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (SSHS)."
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
123. StormJunkie
5:03 PM GMT on July 14, 2006
Ya'll try and remember the Dr asked us to keep pictures to a minimum. some do still have dial up. Links work just as well though.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 173 - 123

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17Blog Index

Top of Page
Ad Blocker Enabled

Category 6™


Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Mountain wave clouds over Labrador
Mountain wave clouds over Labrador
Mountain wave clouds over Labrador
Labrador ice