From Publishers Weekly
Recent news reports about large holes in the ice and open waters at the Arctic Circle have prompted renewed concerns about the effects of global warming. In measured tones, however, geoscientist Alley reminds us that during the last 100,000 years or so the earth has experienced a wildly varied climate pattern. Using readings of ice cores taken from Greenland, where he participated for several years in the '90s in far-reaching research projects, Alley demonstrates that periods of slow cooling and centuries of cold have been punctuated by periods of sudden warming. In fact, he notes, climatic stability is the exception rather than the rule, and he contends that the unusually warm, stable climate we have experienced for the past 10,000 years is an anomaly. Through his study of the two-mile-long ice cores, Alley reveals a number of elements that contribute to global climatic changes: wind patterns, drifting continents and ocean currents. In lively prose, he illustrates that climate can be stable, but when pushed to changeAby either human or natural forcesAsuch change can occur more dramatically and at a faster rate than our industrial society has ever witnessed. Yet Alley is no alarmist in predicting the ways that human activities will affect climate and climatic changes will affect humans. Although not all scientists will agree with Alley's conclusions, his engaging bookAa brilliant combination of scientific thriller, memoir and environmental scienceAprovides instructive glimpses into our climatic past and global future that will appeal to readers interested in how our environment affects us. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Alley, a participant in five expeditions to Greenland and three to Antarctica, well explains how the ice caps in both places record climate history, how to read those records in cylinders of bored ice, and what they reveal about changes in climate. He waits until the end to discuss the possibility of disaster, which, unfortunately, he thinks is highly likely, perhaps soon. The ice borings disclose a history of sudden changes in a continuity that is predominantly much colder than the period during which humanity has developed. Moreover, change can be triggered by "pushes" as large as continental drift or as seemingly puny as a change in the atmospheric balance of greenhouse gases. The latter can slow or stop the huge oceanic "conveyor belt" that warms the North Atlantic, and then habitable, cultivable lands shrink due to plummeting temperatures and reduced precipitation. Is doom inevitable in our time? Given current knowledge, we can't say. But proceeding as if humanity could affect climate change is only prudent. Wonderfully accessible, information-packed science reading. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved