Brave New Arc­tic

The Un­told Story of the Melt­ing North

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews -

Mark C. Ser­reze, Prince­ton Univer­sity Press (APRIL) Hard­cover $24.95 (248pp), 978-0-691-17399-3

Geog­ra­pher Mark C. Ser­reze ad­mits that it took him a while to fully un­der­stand how hu­man ac­tions cause dras­tic en­vi­ron­men­tal changes in the Arc­tic. How­ever, when mount­ing ev­i­dence helped him reach his “epiphany,” he shifted gears quickly, be­com­ing an ar­dent ad­vo­cate for the en­dan­gered po­lar re­gion. His book sounds a clar­ion call about the global con­se­quences of a melt­ing north.

Though full of acronyms and com­plex con­cepts, Ser­reze’s text is clear, ac­ces­si­ble to a pop­u­lar au­di­ence and ac­com­pa­nied with nu­mer­ous il­lus­tra­tions. Weather wonks and fans of po­lar ad­ven­ture will be espe­cially riv­eted as Ser­reze de­scribes “Arc­tic am­pli­fi­ca­tion”—the var­i­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal feed­back loops that en­hance ris­ing air and wa­ter tem­per­a­tures, a melt­ing cryosphere, and al­tered sea and wind cir­cu­la­tion. He pa­tiently builds the case for ac­tion to re­verse these pat­terns, which cause ex­treme weather and ris­ing sea lev­els else­where, too.

At times the book has the feel­ing of a sus­pense­ful de­tec­tive novel, with ded­i­cated sci­en­tist pro­tag­o­nists try­ing to beat the clock against im­pend­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter, all the while bat­tling self-in­ter­ested po­lit­i­cal and cor­po­rate ac­tors who lust af­ter “re­sources” that can more eas­ily be ex­tracted from an ice-free zone and who threaten im­por­tant re­search work with law­suits and fund­ing cuts. At other times, there is a melan­choly tone as the au­thor ele­gizes with past ob­ser­va­tions of a frozen land­scape that will never be the same again.

Brave New Arc­tic paints a chill­ing sce­nario for a rapidly warm­ing po­lar re­gion if sci­en­tists and gov­ern­ment lead­ers can­not find a way to work to­gether—and soon—to re­verse the worst as­pects of cli­mate change.

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