The Last Winter
by Porter Fox 2021
Book Review by Ray Herrmann
Porter Fox is an adventurer, author and ski buff. For this book, he toured Northwestern U.S. Maine, European Alps, Antarctica and Greenland, making sure to meet with experts in each region. As he travels, he writes what he is seeing, and laments what the future may bring:
- Expect more forest fires, so intense and vast that they do not spring back anytime soon (40 years?), meanwhile flash floods may wash away their soil.
- Expect shorter skiing seasons and erosion of the Alps as their binding permafrost melts, allowing supported peaks to fallable, often into villages below.
- Expect ocean levels to rise by about 4 feet over the next 80 years, as glaciers in Greenland continue rapid melting. This, compounded by flooding from storms and tides.
Some noteworthy selections:
- pg 22-23: Forest Fires in Northwestern U.S. are increasing due to draughts and reduces[d snow fall. More than 2 million acres burned between 2002 and 2012. Costs (2006-2016) were $5.1 billion. Since 1970's Western snow packs decreased 20%-50% ( 70% of precipitation is stored as Snow). After a forest fire, the blackened deadwood and torched earth remain for decades and floods can wash out the soil.
- pg 54: About 90% of a tree's solid structure comes from the air (carbon, hydrogen & oxygen)
- pg 63: At 421 ppm of CO2, the last time it was that high was 3 million years ago. Half of CO2 in air today will be there 1000 years from now.
- pg~114: As artic Glaciers shrink, more dangerous crevasses form so hikers have to rope themselves together.
- pg 120: Thawing Permafrost released Anthrax from a thawing Deer in 2016 that killed thousands of Deer and 1 child. The estimated mass of microbes living in ice outweighs the mass of people by 1000 times!
- pg 136-137: Climate deniers steadfastly point to weather fluctuations, but climate is both due to these natural variations and to those induced by Man.
- pg 166-168: Thawing permafrost in the Alps threaten many tunnels, highways, ski resorts and villages, because permafrost's ice had previously crystallized the loose rock. Now, with melting, rocks poised above Swiss towns may collapse.
- pg 170-171: The great cities of Europe, built on shores of the Rhone, Po, Rhine and Danube rivers are all fed by meltwater, thus they depend on them for their water supply. Tibetan Plateau melting glaciers supply rivers: Ganges, Yangtze, Syr, Darya, Indus, Mekong and Irrawaddy.
- pg 200-255: The author takes a trip across Greenland, and tells many stories of early pioneers, like Knud Rasmussen and Peter Freuchen.
- pg 260-261: Greenland's melting ice could raise Sea levels 24 feet (Since the last ice age, sea levels have risen about 400 feet).
- pg 262-263: Author tells his stories of Hurricane Katrina (2005) and of Superstorm Sandy in NY (2012).
- pg 285-287: The start of COVID-19, while author was in Greenland. He had a hard time getting back.
This book will appeal to those who are infatuated with the outdoors, especially those who love mountains and skiing. The author, who was an enthusiastic skier for most of his life, has noticed the changes in the winter-sports environment which affect so many. This book was meant to document the trends, and I think it has succeeded.