Redux: Where the Wind Has No Name

Of all the evocative place words humans have come up with, the words for local winds may be the most varied and most charming. There’s the Albrohos of Portugal, the Gilavar and the Khazri of Azerbaijan, and the Shamal of Iraq. There’s the Cape Doctor of South Africa, the Hawk of Chicago, and the Wreckhouse winds of Newfoundland. […]

The Map Box

I keep a wooden box on my bedside table. It’s cheap – an old Yalumba Wine case that I found on a curb somewhere, with a hinged lid and a shred of price tag still attached. Usually, it’s stacked high with magazines half read, a thing seldom opened and often dusty. But in all of […]

Sensory Underload

Three years ago on about this day in early June I was stuck in a whiteout. Camped in an icebound mountain range in south-central Alaska, my buddies and I found ourselves pinned down for two days in near-zero visibility on an icefield. A heavy, snow-laden sky had come down and smothered us. As mountaineers say, it […]

Damage Patterns

The other night I was in the midst of writing about the Ice Age when I strayed to the internet. Up came the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography that went this year to New York Times photographers Mauricio Lima, Sergey Ponomarev, Tyler Hicks and Daniel Etter for their coverage of the European refugee crises. Fresh from writing a […]

Redux: The Xenotopian Impulse

Until last week, I’d never heard of the Broomway. Now I long to walk it. The Broomway is a paradox: a path through the ocean, a six-century-old walkway that disappears each day. It begins on the southeastern coast of England and heads straight out to sea, crossing about three miles of sand and mudflats until […]

Live from the Bering Land Bridge

My desk is a mess, skulls, books and papers strewn. The cast of a saber-tooth cat skull sits on the corner, resting on its two double-edged daggers, reminding me of the book I am writing about the first people in North America, and what they encountered. As I crab myself over the keyboard, the Smilodon skull […]

Give a Science Writer a Stage

The Devil had two tattooed women in tight skirts holding a rope taut on stage. One he told to stand on her toes while the other crouched slightly. The rope between them showed a slight angle downward, which the Devil said expressed global mean temperature decreasing slightly from 1998 till now. The Devil’s data was cherry picked […]

Let’s stop pretending we give a damn about climate change, 2015 edition

In 2011, I wrote about how little that year’s climate conference had accomplished. The latest edition of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change just wrapped up in Paris over the weekend with a historic agreement. Nearly 200 nations acknowledged the importance of keeping global temperatures from rising […]