Mountain-climbing journalist Bowen accompanies researchers as they dig atop glaciers at the Earth’s equator and gives an in-depth report on the field of climatology.
Lonnie Thompson has long been a towering figure in the world of climate science. Once seen as an iconoclast who had a wild idea about studying the ice near the planet’s equator, he’s now acknowledged to be a visionary in the field. With his dramatic, low-budget, seat-of-the-pants trips to the glaciers of Africa, China and South America, Thompson makes a great character for Bowen to fashion a book around. But while the author starts off trying to weave in hard science with tales of Thompson drilling ice in sub-zero temperatures, transferring core samples in hot-air balloons, this is ultimately a history of the science, covering climatology’s beginnings and citing projections for the near future. (Mt. Kilimanjaro won’t have its snows much longer, the author notes.) Bowen is deeply concerned about global warming—with the weather patterns that the Earth has seen and will likely experience in the future and the many players large and small who have contributed to the understanding of how humans are changing the planet’s atmosphere. The author intersperses stories of Thompson’s treks with discussions of scientific infighting, congressional debates, struggles for funding, the health and history of the Earth’s atmosphere and on and on. The work’s structure bears a passing resemblance to Moby-Dick, part adventure tale, part densely annotated guide to Thompson’s profession. Bowen covers an enormous amount of ground in impressive, accessible detail. For those interested in global warming, the hard facts, backed by prodigious amount of investigation, will be most welcome.
A tremendous work of research, with plenty of entertaining adventure and colorful characters to boot.