The Quest to Understand Global Climate Change
Publication Year: 2012
Almost a decade ago, Paul Andrew Mayewski, an internationally-recognized leader in climate change research, was chosen to lead the National Science Foundation's Greenland Ice Sheet Project Two (GISP2). He and his colleagues put together, literally from scratch, a massive scientific research project involving 25 universities, inventing new techniques for extracting information from the longest ice cores ever from the planet's harshest environments. His book -- equally a scientific explanation of startling new discoveries, an account of how researchers actually work, and a depiction of real life scientific adventure -- arrestingly depicts the contemporary world of climate change research.
The Ice Chronicles tells the story behind GISP2, and its product 100,000 years of climate history. These amazing frozen records document major environmental events such as volcanoes and forest fires. They also reveal the dramatic influence that humans have had on the chemistry of the atmosphere and climate change through major additions of greenhouse gases, acid rain, and stratospheric ozone depletion.
Perhaps the most startling new information gleaned from these records is the knowledge that natural climate is far from stable; quite the opposite -- major, fast changes in climate are found throughout the record. It now appears that Earth's climate changes dramatically every few thousand years, often within the span of a decade. Data gathered through ice core analysis challenge traditional assumptions of how climate operates. Further, the authors show that climate conditions over the past several thousand years, which we take for granted as normal, may in fact be significantly different from that in the previous 100,000 years. New data suggest that relatively balmy conditions allowing the flowering of human civilization since the last Ice Age are not the norm for the last few hundred thousand years. Yet despite the apparent mild state of climate for the last 10,000 years there have still been changes sufficient to contribute substantially to the course of civilization. We live in a changing climate that could under certain circumstances change even more dramatically.
While not a book about policy, the authors find it impossible to ignore the fact that scientific research is, or should be, the underpinning of effective environmental policy. Recognizing that environmental and climate change can no longer be separated from politics and policy, the authors suggest a new approach, drawing upon the insights of ice core research. They present scientifically-grounded principles relevant to policy makers and the public about living with the potentially unstable climatic situation the future will most likely bring.
Published by: University of New Hampshire Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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Little seems more sure than the obvious fact that spring follows winterand summer,spring. Those in the sunbelt may welcome the relativelyseasonless climate of the South,whereas those of us enamored of deepand quiet snow,like author Paul Mayewski,ﬁnd fascination in the frigidwilds of Antarctica’s landscape. Here,from ﬁrsthand experience with...
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Oceans,and Space (EOS) at the University of New Hampshire in 1994to do a writing project for the Institute. Paul was the ﬁrst person to beinterviewed for the project,and halfway through the discussion of drill-ing into glaciers,climbing mountains with barefoot porters carryingbeagles,and falling into crevasses,Frank said,“Paul,you have a great...
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PAUL: I want to begin my acknowledgments by thanking my wife,Lyn,who has shared so much of my life. Without her,it would not have beenpossible for me to have undertaken the expeditions and science de-scribed in this book. She gives me the freedom to live my dreams andmost importantly the love that has supported me in both the good and...
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It was the middle of summer back home. Our friends and families were getting ready to celebrate the Fourth of July,when they would be standing around in shorts,grilling hot dogs and dishing up po-would be none of that for us. We stood on top of the largest mass of icein the northern hemisphere,the Greenland ice sheet,and shivered. Weshivered partly because it was cold,but also because we were anticipat-After all,this was Greenland,a place that is normally freezing,espe-...
1 | Setting the Stage for Our Modern Understanding of Climate Change
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In 1960,the United States entered a new decade with a new sense ofenergyandpurpose.PresidentJohnF.Kennedybeganhisadministra-tionwithacalltoexplorea“newfrontier”of opportunities,whetherthat meant securing civil rights for all citizens of the country,helpingthe poor in other nations create economic growth,or going into outerAs a young man,I found myself caught up in that spirit of adventureand discovery.I,too,wanted to do something that was not only exciting,...
2 | The Making of an Ice Core “Time Machine”
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In 1988,the U.S.researchers involved in ice coring presented a pro-posal to the National Science Foundation to spend $25 million on aproject called the Greenland Ice Sheet Project Two ( GISP2) over afive-year period. About half the funds were targeted to logistical ele-ments of the project (aircraft,ice core drills,ﬁeld laboratories),and halfto the institutions (there were twenty-ﬁve by the time of funding) thatwould participate. Everyone knew that it was a substantial amount of...
3 | The Discovery of Rapid Climate Change Events (RCCEs) and the Realization that Climate Has Multiple Controls
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Imagine our early ancestors living within a few hundred miles ofthe vast ice sheets that covered much of the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere some 12,000 to 70,000 years ago (see ﬁg.3.1).They were accustomed to cold winters and harsh winds,but every 1,500years or so the winds became stronger, pushed violently out of thenorth,and the winters lasted all year.These conditions might have per-sisted for decades,even centuries,forcing our ancestors to move south-...
4 | Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations
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Humans have occupied the planet for millions ofyears,and we know, from examination of marine sediments, that the 100,000-yearsequenceof icesheetbuild-upanddecayhasthat,ifnaturalclimatealoneistakenintoaccount,wewillverylikelyonceI remember once, on an expedition to the Himalayas, waking up todown the mountain with their families in the village below. I rolledover and looked at my wristwatch—5 a.m. These guys were amazing!...
5 | The Last Thousand Years of Climate Change
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One ofthe reasons that scientists are so excited about having a110,000-year-long climate record is that we can view our own climate in the twenty-ﬁrst century along the same continuumas the climate that existed in prehistoric eras,in classical antiquity,inhelps to make our work,which often seems to be esoteric and con-cerned with places and times that are distant from ordinary experience,garmantha in Nepalese) rising dramatically over its neighbors in...
6 | Climate Change: The Real Impact
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Global warming is already beginning to take a toll in Alaska, on the for-ests, in the loss of salmon habitat, and in wide-ranging melting of perma-frost that is damaging roads, houses, and airports, scientists say.Afteryears of debate over the reality and extent of global warming, says GlennJuday of the University of Alaska, “It’s not just projections anymore.It’s an...
7 | Confronting the Choices: Scientists, Politicians, and Public Policy
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In an earlier chapter, we referred to the impact of politics on the em-bryonic science of climatology during the formative days of the American republic.Two hundred years later, the tools and tech-niques of science have become far more sophisticated, while politicshave become global and far more complex.However, the interactionbetween scientists and politicians to create public policy continues un-abated, and much is similar today to the dynamics of those earlier times....
8 | Learning to Live in a Changing World
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For civilization as a whole,the faith that is so essential to restore the bal-ance now missing in our relationship to the earth is the faith that we dohave a future.We can believe in that future and work to achieve it andpreserve it,or we can whirl blindly on,behaving as ifone day there will beno children to inherit our legacy.The choice is ours;the earth is in the...
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Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2012