From Publishers Weekly
For decades, scientists knew that the Arctic's summer ice had been slowly shrinking, but they did not anticipate that "an enormous area" would suddenly melt away in 2007: "Explanations kept changing as the Arctic sprang new surprises." Global warming in itself was not a sufficient explanation, nor was "Arctic Oscillation," fluctuating wind patterns that create changes in atmospheric pressure. Searching for answers, Anderson, former editor-in-chief of New Scientist magazine, travelled extensively in the region-"Svalbard, Alaska, Norway, the Canadian Islands and both Coasts of Greenland"-checking out a hypothesis that the Oscillation had formed thinner surface layers, which melt more quickly. Satellite pictures, combined with underwater submarine probes, tracked the motion of the ice over several summers, allowing scientists to "follow areas of ice as they moved... and track which ice survived," chart the effects of salinity variations, and more. Anderson also meets members of the Inuit community, traditional hunter- trappers who share "troubled stories" of forced relocations, efforts to preserve self-rule, and adapting to the realities of climate change. In this fascinating, insightful overview, Anderson asserts that the days of the "iconic big beasts of the Arctic" are numbered, but remains hopeful about the Arctic's uncertain future.
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Anderson, a biologist and former editor in chief for New Scientist, was thrilled to see his first polar bear on his first trip to the High Arctic, until a colleague pointed out that the bear was starving to death. Endangered polar bears are emblematic of the drastic changes under way in the Arctic, but there are many more stories to tell about this land in flux. Anderson traveled far and wide, speaking with reindeer herders, hunters, and dozens of experts in diverse fields, piecing together the most panoramic picture yet of this crucial region. Delving into Arctic history, he offers fresh insights into the traditions of indigenous people and the consequences of Arctic exploration, colonization, exploitation, and pollution; and he is equally adept at parsing the growing international scramble for the Arctic’s oil, gas, and minerals. With measurements from satellites and submarines quantifying the rapid shrinking of Arctic ice, Anderson joins the call to reduce carbon emissions to slow global warming. Inquisitive, cogent, and compelling, Anderson shares his findings, concerns, and fascination with this vulnerable “place of profound and diverse beauty.” --Donna Seaman