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ç 6 Climate Change: The Real Impact Global warming is already beginning to take a toll in Alaska, on the forests , in the loss of salmon habitat, and in wide-ranging melting of permafrost that is damaging roads, houses, and airports, scientists say. After years of debate over the reality and extent of global warming, says Glenn Juday of the University of Alaska,“It’s not just projections anymore. It’s an unfolding reality . . . If the damage to forests continues as severely as it has been, there is a serious question of whether any kind of forest resembling what we’ve got now will continue,” he warned. Juday, a professor of forest sciences, said the effects of global climate change on the Alaska environment in the last 20 years are becoming evident. That’s a period when the state—along with many other parts of the world—experienced a “regime shift” in which conditions began to change noticeably. —David S. Chandler, Boston Globe, 1997 U ltimately, 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 , is generally limited to the scientific community. The majority of people are concerned about climate change because of its impact on weather patterns on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis. Mayewski-White: The Ice Chronicles page 161 Mayewski-White: The Ice Chronicles page 162 162 The Ice Chronicles ç ✵ the danger of dancing snow As I looked across the ice sheet, I saw something that put all my senses on the alert. It was during the 1971–1972 field season, my third in Antarctica, and the last for my Ph.D. research. I was exploring the mountainous region of Southern Victoria Land with a colleague named Bob Wilkinson when a storm hit. (I’ve lost touch with Bob, but the last I heard, he was working as an Alaskan bush pilot.) At the time, we were trying to get from one mountain to another, hauling our sleds across the ice. A faint swirling of snow on the ice sheet heralded an approaching storm. Even though I was still a relative newcomer in the field, I had quickly learned that what I called “dancing snow” meant trouble, because it signaled that the atmospheric pressure was dropping, and a major storm would not be far behind. Not long after I saw that little snow-dance, the wind did pick up, and it soon gusted to 100 to 120 miles per hour (160 to 190 kilometers per hour). Sometimes, Antarctica gives you options, sometimes it does not. In this case, we had no choice about how to respond. We stopped right there, pitched our tents, and prepared to wait the storm out. I couldn’t believe the strength of the winds—we had brought along a 120-pound generator that kept jumping around on its platform, and we needed every piece of climbing rope and all of our extra climbing screws to tie down the generator and our tent. We knew all too well that storms like this one could last up to ten days, so we couldn’t predict how long we would be holed up in our tent. As it turned out, we were trapped for three days, completely out of contact with our colleagues at the main base, McMurdo Station, 100 miles (161 kilometers) away. Rescue was unthinkable; we couldn’t expect the people there to risk their own lives coming out in the storm to find us. We took turns holding up a piece of plywood against the wind wall of the tent to keep the whole thing from collapsing .That fabric was all that stood between us and a very serious Because people are interested in weather, extreme weather events such as major storms confirm the growing belief by non-scientists that weather really does change in response to climate change, regardless of how the debates among scientists and policymakers turn out. Mayewski-White: The Ice Chronicles page 163 Climate Change:The Real Impact 163 ç situation.Without shelter, we would have been subjected to temperatures that hovered around 0 degrees Fahrenheit (–18 degrees Celsius ) and that was without the wind chill factor! We really couldn’t afford to risk going to sleep, because we had to be sure the tent remained intact, so we were awake for most of...


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