The first chapter of Field Notes from a Catastrophe deals with the impacts of global warming. Alaska is the main focus of the chapter as it deals with the effects of global warming on a local Inupiat tribe and the observable impacts on the environment for residents of Alaskan cities such as Fairbanks. Also covered in this chapter is early research into global warming as well as current measurements.
The first portion of the chapter deals with the Inupiat of Shishmaref Island. The author discusses how the water levels are rising due to the warmer weather preventing protective ice from forming. Also, the traditional way of life that was formed around seal hunting has become more difficult to sustain as the thick ice used for transportation by snowmobile and dogsled have melted and become dangerous and impassable. The result of this is a $180 million plan by the United States government to relocate the tribe.
The chapter later addressed the changes seen by residents residing even in populated cities of Alaska, specifically mentioning Fairbanks. This includes a drastic increase in the number of wildfires caused by warmer, dryer weather. Further home and land destruction has also been caused due to the melting of glacial ice formations and partial thawing of permafrost.
While pointing out the effects of global warming, the chapter also delves into the science of proving that global warming exists. First, there is a discussion of the early research into global warming and how the warning were largely ignored for decades. Then the author uses discussions with experts to discuss current measurements for global warming including the analysis of permafrost.