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Staff Pick of the Week: “The Ice at the End of the World” by Jon Gertner

Genre: Nature Writing, Politics, Global Affairs

A Wilder Time: Notes from a geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice by William E. Glassley
White Eskimo: Knud Rasmussen’s Fearless Journey into the Heart of the Artic by Stephen R. Bown
Kingdom of Frost: How the Cryosphere Shapes Life on Earth by Bjorn Vassnes

“In this remarkably thorough account, Gertner (The Idea Factory), a New York Times Magazine contributor, narrates Greenland’s history as a destination of rugged explorers and the birth site of glaciology. Gertner builds a fascinating chronology of scientific endeavor and discovery, beginning with “lunatic” Norwegian zoologist Fridtjof Nansen’s 1888 trek across Greenland’s frozen tundra. Scientists began flocking there in 1930 to study glaciers, eventually turning to “deep core drilling” to extract ice samples from as far as a mile down. By the 1990s, equipment sophisticated enough for “meticulous, year-by-year reading of the layers of ice” found evidence of “abrupt climate change” 17,500 years ago, in a potential omen of environmental catastrophe to come. More recently, a NASA satellite able to weigh Greenland’s ice sheet discovered, alarmingly, that it is “losing well over one hundred billion tons of ice per year.” Gertner demonstrates how each of these discoveries built upon previous work, cumulatively enriching the scientific understanding of climate in general and Greenland in particular. This is vital reading for anyone interested in how climate change has already affected the Earth, and how it might do so in future.” -Publishers Weekly, vol. 266, issue 9

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Thanks for reading,
-George, FTPL

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