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The Fate of Greenland

Lessons from Abrupt Climate Change

Philip Conkling, Richard Alley, Wallace Broecker, and George Denton

Publication Year: 2011

Experts discuss how Greenland’s warming climate--seen in its melting ice sheets and retreating glaciers--could affect the rest of the world.

Published by: The MIT Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

In August 2001, Gary Comer, the transoceanic sailor who founded the Lands’ End direct mail clothing empire and who had been fascinated with the Arctic since childhood, successfully completed a voyage from Greenland through the Northwest Passage. For centuries mariners had tried to navigate through ice-choked channels of the Northwest Passage that connect the Atlantic and Pacific ...


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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. 1-24

Greenland is the world’s largest island, 90 percent of which is covered by ice. Green-land is also one of the remote wonders of the world. Greenland’s ice sheet—the largest outside Antarctica—stretches almost 1,000 miles from north to south and is 600 miles east to west. The view from a small plane out over the endless desolation of snow and ice in the high summer light is an experience in the in-...

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1. Mystery of the Ice Ages

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pp. 25-46

Tourists love to get near glaciers, but most people prefer to live elsewhere, and for good reasons. Strong, cold winds often drain down-valley from the icy glaciers. The soils just beyond the ice are usually rocky and poor, and often there is no soil at all, just bare rock or gravel. A hungry farmer looks elsewhere for a...

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2. Rosetta Stones from the Greenland Ice Sheet

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pp. 47-74

A master detective notices the one clean square surrounded by thick dust on the shelf, and knows that the box with the evidence has been taken away. An archeologist uses brush and trowel, and layer-by-layer unearths the history of the long-gone people. And a polar explorer rises in the morning to see that snow from last night’s storm has buried the tracks from yesterday. The polar ...

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3. A Role for All Seasons

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pp. 75-100

Dryas octapedula, variously known as mountain avens, white dryas, or white dryad is a lovely little arctic-alpine flowering plant usually found growing as a small prostrate evergreen shrub with an eight-petaled white flower. This hardy plant, which grows today in the tundra of the Arctic, has also played a critical role in the study of paleoclimates

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4. The Great Ocean Conveyor

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pp. 101-120

The conveyor is one of the ocean’s great global current loops. It originates in the northernmost regions of the Atlantic Ocean where, during the winter, frigid air flowing off Canada and Greenland cools, and hence densifies, the salty waters carried into this region by the Gulf Stream. The result is that the surface water becomes dense enough to sink into the abyss to form what is known by ...

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5. A Wobbly North Atlantic Conveyor?

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pp. 121-146

In the 1930s Francois Matthes, working for the United States Geological Survey, studied very young moraines deposited by small glaciers in the Sierra Nevada of California, and during an interview with a journalist introduced the term Little Ice Age to describe the time interval during which these moraines were deposited. The term has endured ever since, although its usage has varied. The ...

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6. Greenland's Climate Signal Across the Globe

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pp. 147-164

With the discoveries of abrupt climate changes revealed in the Greenland ice cores and the evidence of big ice sheet collapses revealed in Heinrich’s ice-rafted debris, Wallace Broecker began to wrestle with the question of how much of the rest of Earth might also have experienced these events. In particular, he began to think about the experiences of his early career in arid parts of the western ...

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7. Carbon Dioxide and the Fate of the Greenland Ice Sheet

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pp. 165-182

In the previous chapters, we described some of what we know about the paleoclimatic history of Greenland and its relation to the history of the planet. But you might wonder, what does this have to tell us about the future? A lot, it turns out. To see this, though, we need just a little additional background.
We humans are rapidly converting fossil fuels into carbon dioxide, releasing ...

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8. Out of the Ice

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pp. 183-204

The public debate about climate change has been treated in the press as having two sides—the science showing that our business-as-usual actions will change the climate in ways that on average hurt us, and the opposition arguing that things might end up better than that projection. As noted in the previous chapter, such a two-sided view has always been overly simplistic—there ...


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pp. 205-210


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pp. 211-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780262295468
E-ISBN-10: 0262295466
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262015646
Print-ISBN-10: 0262015641

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 77 color photos, 1 color illus., 9 graphs
Publication Year: 2011