DATE: November 8, 2017
SNIP: One of the Arctic’s most important storytellers in the age of climate change can now foresee how the story might end.
Since 1975, when seabird biologist George Divoky discovered black guillemots nesting on Cooper Island, an uninhabited strip of land 5 miles (8km) offshore near Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska, he has returned every summer to observe them. For years, he’s watched the colony decline. Now he’s worried about its collapse.
Global warming is a story built around data, small and fluctuating environmental changes that add up to a bigger picture over decades. The world accepted that the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide concentration was increasing only after Charles Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography began taking consistent measurements in the 1950s, barely scraping together enough funds at first for work that is foundational today.
In the more than 40 summers that Divoky, a researcher who received a PhD at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, has spent on Cooper Island, alone in a tent and later in a cabin, he was also cobbling together a global-warming narrative, although he didn’t know it for a long time.