The last winter The scientists, adventurers, journeymen, and mavericks trying to save the world

Porter Fox

Book - 2021

As the planet warms, winter is shrinking. In the last fifty years, the Northern Hemisphere lost a million square miles of spring snowpack and in the US alone, snow cover has been reduced by 15-30%. On average, winter has shrunk by a month in most northern latitudes. In this deeply researched, beautifully written, and adventure-filled book, journalist Porter Fox travels along the edge of the Northern Hemisphere's snow line to track the scope of this drastic change, and how it will literally change everything--from rapid sea level rise, to fresh water scarcity for two billion people, to massive greenhouse gas emissions from thawing permafrost, and a half dozen climate tipping points that could very well spell the end of our world. This o...riginal research is animated by four harrowing and illuminating journeys--each grounded by interviews with idiosyncratic, charismatic experts in their respective fields and Fox's own narrative of growing up on a remote island in Northern Maine.

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 363.73874/Fox Checked In
Creative nonfiction
New York : Little, Brown and Company 2021.
Main Author
Porter Fox (author)
First edition
Physical Description
xii, 306 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographic references (pages 295-297) and index.
  • Introduction
  • The Fires
  • 1. It Started in Cougar Flats
  • 2. The Bird Is Sick
  • 3. The Transfer of Energy
  • 4. Obelisks of Time
  • 5. The Final Questions
  • The Icefield
  • 6. The Law of High Latitudes
  • 7. Life and the Living Dead Inside the Glacier
  • 8. The Enchanted Divide
  • 9. The 10,000-Year Window
  • The Alps
  • 10. The Great Melt Has Arrived
  • 11. The Big Picture
  • 12. The Ice City
  • 13. The Lost and Found Memories Office
  • White Earth
  • 14. A Bad Omen
  • 15. A Brief History of Death and Survival
  • 16. The Lark's Foot
  • 17. Nancy Pelosi Goes to Swiss Camp
  • 18. Club Aurora
  • 19. This World Is Brutal-Be Happy You Are Not Dead Yet
  • Acknowledgments
  • Suggested Readings
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Fox (Northland), editor of the literary journal Nowhere, spotlights a warming world in this moving travelogue about snowy places and the people who inhabit them. Decrying global warming's effect on glacier ice, snow terrain, and high-altitude snowpacks, Fox pals around with scientists who are studying how Earth's ice, snow, and winters "affect and even control" the planet's natural systems. In "interviews, revelations, confessions, treks, bonfires, meals, and contemplative road trips," Fox tries to wrap his head around a world without winter, and cites grave conditions, such as the prediction that "most will be gone in the next century." He visits Juneau, Alaska, to meet with glaciologists studying the ice ages; goes to Corvara, Italy, to follow along with mountaineers enduring ever warmer tours through the Alps; and heads to Kulusuk, Greenland, to observe how the Inuit cope with ice loss as glaciers slide into the sea "faster than snowfall could replenish them." Perilous journeys on skis and by dog sled give this the feel of a rollicking adventure story: "Each driver steered this slightly controlled state of entropy not from the back of the sled, where the brake is, but up front, setting up exciting and often terrifying driving-without-brakes situations." Environmentalists will find much to savor in this exciting yet distressing tale. Agent: Duvall Osteen, Aragi. (Nov.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

A gripping account of the declining state of the cryosphere by Fox (Northland: A 4,000-Mile Journey Along America's Forgotten Border). He reports from Greenland, the Alps, the Alaskan Icefields, and the wildfire zone of the Pacific Northwest's Cascades and immerses himself in the environments among the people who live and conduct research there. It might be considered a follow-up to his earlier book Deep, which examined how a warming climate would affect snowfall. Here, Fox describes in plain language the science, methodologies, and data of the glacial recession that scientists call "the Big Melt." The book's digressions from the scientific narrative fill out the picture; Fox discusses winter and alpine folklore, effects of climate change on Inuit people in Greenland, Greenlandic Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen, and his own fears for the future of his young daughter. Yet another dimension concerns Fox's struggle with the idea of climate change and its enormity. The picture that emerges is terrifying, as Fox eloquently describes the significant impacts of melting ice sheets and more frequent wildfires. The book includes archival photographs. VERDICT Fox has written an important, much-needed book about the climate crisis that injects a personal element into an abstract-seeming problem. This is popular science at its best.--Robert Eagan, Windsor P.L., Ont.

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Think these last few years of climate change have been weird? You haven't seen anything yet, Fox warns in this ominous though beautifully written book. "Things on earth are never the same for long," observes writer and traveler Fox, who divides his time between Brooklyn and, it seems, everywhere else in the world. Transitory, however, doesn't always mean natural. The author worries in particular that winter is disappearing. For heat lovers, warm winters might be welcome, but winter has a regulatory function that is essential to our planet's heating and cooling systems and to its water supply. A new aridity now dries our forests and makes them vulnerable to wildfire. "The eight most fire-ravaged years in recorded history had all seen historically low snowpacks," writes Fox. Indeed, much of Siberia, which has lately been seeing summer temperatures above 100 degrees, burns in season; Fox notes that a recent fire covered an area as large as the country of Greece, which, of course, has been blazing away this summer. The author has traveled widely to interview ski bums, glaciologists, Indigenous hunters, and explorers, and he smoothly incorporate their takes into the narrative. He often writes with a light hand--e.g., "it struck me that if Jesus had made it to retirement age and happened to wander into Central Washington, I wouldn't be surprised if he followed Ed's lead, bought a snowmobile and a pair of skis, and spent sixty days a year skiing bottomless powder." Jesus on skis is a nice conceit, but Fox's work is deeply grounded in science, as when he notes that in the Alps, "nearly every glacier under 11,500 feet is predicted to vanish in the next twenty to thirty years." It's the kind of book John McPhee would write if he were abroad in wintry places, and we're fortunate that Fox has taken his place. An essential addition to the library of climate change and one that ought to spur readers to do something about it. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.