Field Notes from a Catastrophe

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 154
  • Published : May 29, 2006
Open Document
Text Preview
Part 1: Summary

In this book, Kolbert travels to many places to find out what is happening with global warming. Quite often she ran into the same fear at the places she went, the fear for loss before the next generation. When she went to Alaska, many people were fleeing from their homes because the sea ice surrounding them, creating a buffer zone for storms, was melting and that was causing houses to just be swept away.

A man in Iceland who has monitored glaciers predicted that by the end of the century, Iceland will be ice free. Not something you would expect from a land that has had glaciers for over two million years. On the tips of glacier in Greenland, researchers found water in places there had not been water in maybe thousands of years.

When she went to the Netherlands, she found that the rising sea level was expected to take up a large portion of the country. However, in areas where there is already periodic flood, they have already started construction on amphibious home and buoyant roads.

Other then the trips to these places she also gathers up data on the situation of global warming. The United States is the single largest country to put carbon in our atmosphere. We alone account for one quarter of the world's total. An average of 12,000 pounds of carbon is released by each American. However, the Chinese are expected to pass us up within a short period if they do not build new plants with low-emission technology. Mr. Hoffert, who is a professor in physics, believes we can overcome this global warming situation. He has many ideas to avoid carbon sources of energy; Satellites with photovoltaic arrays, solar collectors on the moon, and turbines suspended in the jet stream.

Part 2: Chapter 5


I think the most obvious factual claim would be global warming. The whole time she is looking for evidence and proof of the global warming. She talked to a man named Hansen, who "Decided that a planet whose atmosphere could change in the course of a human lifetime was more interesting then one that was going to continue, for all intents and purposes, to broil away forever."(pg 98) He was comparing Earth to Venus whose surface temperature was 876 degrees. It was believed that the temperature was so high due to a smoggy haze, but soon after that it was found out that the atmosphere was 96% carbon-dioxide. This is what captivated Hansen and made him first interested in the climate change in the 70s. In the summer of 1990 Hansen made a bet with fellow scientists that the following year or then next year would be the hottest on record yet but not only for land temperature, but sea and lower atmosphere as well, he won the bet in six months.(pg 99)


In this section, Kolbert talks a bit about aerosols. Aerosols create basically a reverse greenhouse effect in our atmosphere. Carbon-dioxide lets the heat from the sunlight go through the atmosphere but it also blocks the heat from escaping. What Aerosols do for us, while in the atmosphere, is they reflect the light away from our surface which helps cool us down rather then warm us up. During a time when the temperature was rapidly rising, a volcano erupted producing 20 million tons of these gases. After that, the temperature decreased by a half degree.


A good emotional part for me in this section was with Weiss and his studies on the Akkadian empire. He constructed a time line of the city and its history. "From its origins as a small farming village (around 5000 B.C.) to its growth into an independent city of some thirty thousand people (2600 B.C.), and on to its reorganization under imperial rule (2300 B.C.)"(pg 95) Later he talks about how a layer of dirt reveals that the human had abandoned it from 2200 to 1900 B.C. "Weiss sent soil samples from Tell Leilan to a lab for analysis. The results showed that…even the city's earthworms had died out"(pg 95) It is amazing how a civilization, which rose from...
tracking img