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Ice Chronicles

The Quest to Understand Global Climate Change

Paul Andrew Mayewski

Publication Year: 2012

"ON 1 JULY 1993, AT 2:48 PM LOCAL, THE U.S. GREENLAND ICE SHEET PROJECT TWO (GISP2) LOCATED IN CENTRAL GREENLAND . . . STRUCK ROCK. THIS COMPLETES THE LONGEST ENVIRONMENTAL RECORD . . . EVER OBTAINED FROM AN ICE CORE IN THE WORLD AND THE LONGEST SUCH RECORD POSSIBLE FROM THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE." -- Message from Greenland Ice Sheet Project Two posted Thursday, July 1, 1993

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

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-9

Contents

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pp. vii-x

Illustrations

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pp. xi-xiv

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Foreword

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pp. xv-xviii

Little seems more sure than the obvious fact that spring follows winter and summer, spring. Those in the sunbelt may welcome the relatively seasonless climate of the South, whereas those of us enamored of deep and quiet snow, like author Paul Mayewski, find fascination in the frigid...

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Preface

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pp. xix-xxi

We met when Frank came to the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS) at the University of New Hampshire in 1994 to do a writing project for the Institute. Paul was the first person to be interviewed for the project, and halfway through the discussion of drilling...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xxiii-xxv

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 been possible for me to have undertaken the expeditions and science described in this book. She gives me the freedom to live my dreams and...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-18

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 potato salad, maybe even watching a parade down Main Street. There...

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1 | Setting the Stage for Our Modern Understanding of Climate Change

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pp. 19-37

In 1960, the United States entered a new decade with a new sense of energy and purpose.President John F. Kennedy began his administration with a call to explore a “new frontier” of opportunities, whether that meant securing civil rights for all citizens of the country, helping...

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2 | The Making of an Ice Core “Time Machine”

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pp. 38-79

In 1988, the U.S. researchers involved in ice coring presented a proposal to the National Science Foundation to spend $25 million on a project called the Greenland Ice Sheet Project Two (GISP2) over a five-year period. About half the funds were targeted to logistical elements...

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3 | The Discovery of Rapid Climate Change Events (RCCEs) and the Realization that Climate Has Multiple Controls

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pp. 80-110

Imagine our early ancestors living within a few hundred miles of the 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 1,500...

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4 | Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations

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pp. 111-125

Humans have occupied the planet for millions of years, and we know, from examination of marine sediments, that the 100,000-year sequence of ice sheet build-up and decay has been in action for at least one million years, if not longer. That means...

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5 | The Last Thousand Years of Climate Change

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pp. 126-160

One of the reasons that scientists are so excited about having a 110,000-year-long climate record is that we can view our own climate in the twenty-first century along the same continuum as the climate that existed in prehistoric eras, in classical antiquity, in...

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6 | Climate Change: The Real Impact

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pp. 161-178

Ultimately, climate change is important to all of us, not because of something that happened a million years ago, a thousand years ago, or even a hundred years ago. Great fascination with paleoclimate studies, while the information is available to anyone with curiosity...

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7 | Confronting the Choices: Scientists, Politicians, and Public Policy

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pp. 179-200

In an earlier chapter, we referred to the impact of politics on the embryonic science of climatology during the formative days of the American republic. Two hundred years later, the tools and techniques of science have become far more sophisticated, while politics...

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8 | Learning to Live in a Changing World

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pp. 201-214

Human evolution on this planet is going to become increasingly connected with good environmental policymaking, and it is now clear that this process will be global in nature, an undertaking for the entire human family. Globalization has already claimed...

Chapter References

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pp. 215-222

Bibliography

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pp. 223-255

Index

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pp. 225-233


E-ISBN-13: 9781611683844
E-ISBN-10: 161168384X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781584650614

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2012