Ice Rivers by Jemma Wadham

3.5 out of 5 stars

Even though they don’t move very far or very fast, glaciers are on the move. Not just downhill, the way that the planet is warming because of climate change, they are melting at an accelerating rate. Almost every glacier around the world is smaller than it was 50 years ago and there are some that have almost vanished completely.

What this means for the planet and the people that live alongside the sea as sea levels rise is anyone’s guess. We are just on the tipping point of being able to save them, though many think it is too late. One of the experts who knows a lot about these geological marvels is Professor Jemma Wadham. She has been obsessed with them for a long time now and in this books, she hopes to teach us about them.

They are not just sterile icy lakes either, her research with a number of other scientists has proven that they are full of life and are active processors of carbon and nutrients, just like our forests and oceans, influencing crucial systems and in no surprise are a key part of the way that life functions on our planet.

Sadly though climate change is having a debilitating effect on them, Even since she has been a glaciologist she has seen a dramatic decline in their size as they slowly melt. In this book, she takes us to some of the places from Greenland to Patagonia and the Antarctic that she has been to in her research about these cold geological marvels.

I thought that this was quite a good book, and Wadham writes in a way that shows that she is a master of her subject. However, I did have a couple of reservations about it. Firstly, I felt it was like reading an academic paper at certain points in the text, the narrative would be like reading a travel book one moment and then I suddenly felt out of my depth. There are a couple of personal elements in here that she writes about, but for this book it felt out of place, this is a science book rather than a memoir. That said, if you want a snapshot of the perilous state of the planet’s glaciers this is a good place to start.

Spread the love


  1. Liz Dexter

    Hm, I don’t mind academic stuff in geography/geology books as I can deal with that, not so sure (as you know by now!) about bolted on personal stuff!

    • Paul

      Writing popular science is a very different skill from writing an academic paper and sometimes with these books they need a little help! I don’t mind personal stuff in a memoir, it is the right place for it. However a lot f the time these things feel like they have been shoehorned in because the editor demands an emotional part has to be included.

Leave a Reply