Journalist White (Skipjack: The Story of America’s Last Sailing Oystermen, 2009, etc.), who has written extensively on maritime history, overfishing and the Chesapeake Bay, turns his attention to Montana's Glacier National Park.
The author’s project began as a profile of Dan Fagre, “the leading glacier expert in the country,” but his concern mounted as he learned that due to global warming “mountain glaciers are on a fast track to oblivion.” They are melting at a faster pace than the polar ice and more quickly than scientists had predicted. In 2008, White joined a team of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, led by Fagre, who were tracking the alarming rate of glacial shrinkage at the park. Fagre fears that the glacial melt is approaching a tipping point that will become unstoppable perhaps as soon as 10 years from now, despite efforts to reduce carbon emissions. White was hooked on the story and joined with the team over the next five years as they checked on the glaciers over a three-week period at the end of each August and beginning of September. He chronicles the GPS-assisted precision of their annual measurements and the computer models on which their extrapolations of the rate of melt are based. “The accelerating loss of ice in Montana also informs us of what's to come in the Alps, the Andes, and the Himalaya,” writes White. As such, these conditions are harbingers of the impending crisis of major floods and the forced exodus of masses of people internationally.
Despite the grim reality being documented, White, an avid mountain climber in his youth, conveys the joy he experienced in the glorious scenery and the physical challenge of climbing mountain peaks and traversing potentially treacherous glaciers.