cover image After the Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic

After the Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic

Alun Anderson. Smithsonian Books, $26.99 (298pp) ISBN 978-0-06-157907-3

For decades, scientists knew that the Arctic's summer ice had been slowly shrinking, but they did not anticipate that ""an enormous area"" would suddenly melt away in 2007: ""Explanations kept changing as the Arctic sprang new surprises."" Global warming in itself was not a sufficient explanation, nor was ""Arctic Oscillation,"" fluctuating wind patterns that create changes in atmospheric pressure. Searching for answers, Anderson, former editor-in-chief of New Scientist magazine, travelled extensively in the region-""Svalbard, Alaska, Norway, the Canadian Islands and both Coasts of Greenland""-checking out a hypothesis that the Oscillation had formed thinner surface layers, which melt more quickly. Satellite pictures, combined with underwater submarine probes, tracked the motion of the ice over several summers, allowing scientists to ""follow areas of ice as they moved... and track which ice survived,"" chart the effects of salinity variations, and more. Anderson also meets members of the Inuit community, traditional hunter- trappers who share ""troubled stories"" of forced relocations, efforts to preserve self-rule, and adapting to the realities of climate change. In this fascinating, insightful overview, Anderson asserts that the days of the ""iconic big beasts of the Arctic"" are numbered, but remains hopeful about the Arctic's uncertain future.