SCIENCES

The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future

Random. Jun. 2019. 448p. ISBN 9780812996623. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780812996630. NAT HIST
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In this wide-ranging book, Gertner (The Idea Factory) demonstrates the same excitement for scientific exploration as for the adventures of early polar explorers. The author shares the stories of Fridtjof Nansen, Knud Rasmussen, Alfred Wegener, Robert Peary, and others who ventured to learn what lay at the center of the great ice sheet, what the northern coast was like, and what was happening far above and below the ice. Gertner explains that ice cores were identified as a way to examine annual climate data going back 10,000 years and that melting of the polar ice caps is influenced by ocean temperatures, currents, algae blooms, glacial rivers, calving, and more, all of which contribute to an ever-increasing downward spiral of ice melt. The author also discusses the American base built during the Cold War that left behind radioactive waste and other hazardous materials that will be released as melting occurs, though the base also made possible influential scientific discoveries. A brief paragraph of climate change pseudoscience quick fixes somewhat diminishes the overall tenor.
VERDICT There's something for everyone here: adventure, the Cold War, science, and analysis of how melting ice sheets will influence future climates.

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