First Light
The Book: First Light
the author
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About the Author



Rebbeca Stead  Rebbeca Stead  grew up in New York City, where she was lucky enough to attend the kind of elementary school where you could sit in a windowsill, or even under a table, and read or write, and no one told you to come out and be serious (well, eventually someone did, but not right away). It was here that Rebecca began writing. Sometimes she invented stories, and other times she just wrote down things she overheard – jokes, or snatches of conversation. Writing down what people say is a great way to learn what they might say, if you wanted them to.

Much, much later, Rebecca became a lawyer, got married, and started working as a public defender. She still wrote stories when she could find the time. Then her first child, a fabulous son, was born. A few years later, she had another fabulous son. There wasn’t much time for writing stories after that.

One day, Rebecca read a wonderful newspaper article about a scientist who studies climate change by camping in the arctic every summer and watching birds. That same month, her four-year-old son, though fabulous, accidentally pushed her laptop off the dining-room table, and the short stories she had worked on for several years were gone. Poof.

So. It was time to write something new. Rebecca plunged into First Light, stopping now and then to research. She decided that her story took place in Greenland, where dog sledding is part of everyday life, and suddenly she had a cast of dogs. She discovered that a glacier can conceal a freshwater lake, and that firefly light is triggered by oxygen. A glaciologist told her how to scare a polar bear with a flare gun, and why he loves his bread maker.

First Light also hints at other things she’s learned, such as the fact that children don’t need to be shielded from truth. They are often much braver than the rest of us.

 

The Science

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Peter’s father is a scientist who studies global warming. But why is he so interested in Greenland?
The ice on Greenland is melting more than scientists expected it would. In some parts, the ice sheet is almost two miles thick. As chunks of ice break off and fall into the ocean as icebergs (a process known as “calving”), sea levels rise all over the world. And calving ice isn't the only way for ice to leave Greenland - it can also simply melt and run off into the ocean. At the current rate of ice melt, worldwide sea levels will rise 1.6 feet within the next hundred years. If the ice starts to melt more quickly, the oceans will rise even faster. By carefully watching the changes in Greenland, scientists hope to better predict how other parts of the world might change.

What's causing the melting?
The Earth's climate is slowly changing. We often refer to these changes "global warming," but the truth isn't quite as simple as that. Parts of the world are getting warmer, but others are seeing different effects of climate change – bigger storms or drier conditions, for example.

How does the ice move in Greenland? Isn't it all stuck together like a big ice cube?
During the warmer summer months, some of Greenland's surface ice melts and drains down through the ice cap in vertical rivers called "moulins." Moulins can be thirty feet wide and fall hundreds of feet into the ice. Huge blocks of ice then slip along on this ice melt, toward the sea.

The people of Gracehope live deep within the ice next to a lake. Are there really lakes under the Greenland ice?
The lake in Gracehope is an invention of the author. However, "subglacial lakes" do exist on Earth – in 1996, for example, scientists using satellite radar technology mapped Lake Vostok, an unfrozen lake several miles beneath the ice in Antarctica. Lake Vostok is enormous – as big as Lake Ontario – and scientists believe it may be partly warmed by geothermal forces from the Earth's interior.

What do scientists think causes climate change?
The use of fossil fuels such as oil and coal has added a lot of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" to the Earth’s atmosphere – more than has existed in the past 500,000 years. In higher concentrations, these gases trap more heat. Scientists say this is the cause of the changes being observed in Greenland and the rest of the world. The reduction of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions would help a lot. Even small changes, such as switching to efficient light bulbs and doing less driving, add up.

Written with Susan Buhr, Ph.D., Director, Education and Outreach Program, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

Science Links

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Learn more about go to the Marian Koshland Science Museum's website

To understand all the fuss about go to National Public Radio's website or watch this video

For more about changes in go to National Geographic's Adventure Travel site



To learn more about in Greenland, look at this article as well as The Steffen Research Group's Greenland Photo Journal

To find out what is doing about climate change, check out this article from the Environment News Service

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