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The journal Nature published a review of CHRE’s Executive Director’s recent publication, Meltdown: The Earth Without Glaciers (Oxford University Press).
Review reproduced below.
Meltdown! The Earth Without Glaciers
Jorge Daniel Taillant. Oxford University Press (2021)
Taillant provides a thorough global overview of the extent of glaciers, the causes of glaciation and the many impacts of glacial disintegration, including dangerous floods. He does not interview scientists in the field, as Fox does in Juneau and elsewhere, but instead relies on news reports and other secondary material
Particularly intriguing is a chapter on rock glaciers, which are common in the Andes and the American West but have been relatively little studied. These rubble-covered deposits, maybe 50% ice, typically exist at lower elevations than ice glaciers, in regions where surface sediments freeze and thaw but ice can remain year-round at greater depths. Rock glaciers can creep slowly downhill — in satellite images, they look like giant dirty flows of debris. Insulated by stony cover, they melt more slowly than ice glaciers, so could provide a slow, steady supply of water downstream.
Taillant also shines when he highlights innovative methods for conserving or even building glaciers. One scientist in Peru has covered glaciers with sawdust to slow their melt. In India, an engineer dubbed the Glacier Man has dammed snow in the winter so that it solidifies into artificial glaciers that release their water late into the year. Unfortunately, such messages come near the book’s end, after much dense priming, unleavened by many exclamation marks and italics.
As we experience today’s warming and prepare for even more, the future of glaciers and of winter is of huge concern. This year’s United Nations climate-change conference, COP26, made clear that we are probably heading for well over 2 °C of warming. From the ice fields of Alaska, where future Earth scientists train, to the rock glaciers of the Andes that might hold precious, overlooked water resources, we need fewer empty promises — and more solutions.
Nature 600, 381-382 (2021)