Paleoclimatology: From Snowball Earth to the Anthropocene

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John Wiley & Sons, Sep 8, 2020 - Science - 560 pages

Life on our planet depends upon having a climate that changes within narrow limits – not too hot for the oceans to boil away nor too cold for the planet to freeze over. Over the past billion years Earth’s average temperature has stayed close to 14-15C, oscillating between warm greenhouse states and cold icehouse states. We live with variation, but a variation with limits. Paleoclimatology is the science of understanding and explaining those variations, those limits, and the forces that control them. Without that understanding we will not be able to foresee future change accurately as our population grows. Our impact on the planet is now equal to a geological force, such that many geologists now see us as living in a new geological era – the Anthropocene.

Paleoclimatology describes Earth’s passage through the greenhouse and icehouse worlds of the past 800 million years, including the glaciations of Snowball Earth in a world that was then free of land plants. It describes the operation of the Earth’s thermostat, which keeps the planet fit for life, and its control by interactions between greenhouse gases, land plants, chemical weathering, continental motions, volcanic activity, orbital change and solar variability. It explains how we arrived at our current understanding of the climate system, by reviewing the contributions of scientists since the mid-1700s, showing how their ideas were modified as science progressed. And it includes reflections based on the author’s involvement in palaeoclimatic research.

The book will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about future climate change. It will be an invaluable course reference for undergraduate and postgraduate students in geology, climatology, oceanography and the history of science.

 

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Contents

The Great Cooling
9
15
15
Ice Age Cycles
31
Trace Gases Warm The Planet
41
Changing Geography Through Time
57
Mapping Past Climates
81
Into the Icehouse
117
Greenhouse Gas Theory Matures
147
2
293
Solving the Ice Age Mystery The Deep Ocean Solution
315
Solving the Ice Age Mystery The Ice Core Tale
345
3
401
The Holocene Interglacial
403
4
417
The Late Holocene and the Anthropocene
437
Putting It All Together
507

Measuring and Modelling CO2 BackThrough Time
183
The Pulse of the Earth
223
Numerical Climate Models and Case Histories
267
1
276
What Can Be Done?
520
Index
539
Copyright

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About the author (2020)

About the Author

Colin P. Summerhayes is an Emeritus Associate of the Scott Polar Research Institute of Cambridge University. He has carried out research and managed research programmes on aspects of past climate change in academia, in government laboratories, in intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and in industry since obtaining a PhD in Geochemistry from Imperial College, London, in 1970.

The cover shows a view of some the numerous small crevassed glaciers typical of the Antarctic Peninsula, which are seen here cutting across the Mid-Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous volcanic rocks of the exposed magmatic core of the ancient island arc underlying the Peninsula, on the east side of the northern entrance to the Lemaire Channel.

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