Publisher: Pearson Date of Publication: 2005
Price: ISBN: 0 13 028319 3
Pages: xv + 403 Format: Paperback

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1 - Introduction to systems and the climate system; 2 - Mass components of the climate system; 3 - Energy components of the climate system; 4 - Motions of the climate system; 6 - Changes in the climate system; 7 - Modelling the climate system; 8 - Weather, climate and climate change in the high latitudes: polar regions; 9 - Weather, climate and climate change in the mid latitude oceanic margins: NW Europe; 10 - Weather, climate and climate change in the mid latitude continental interiors: N America;11 - Weather, climate and climate change in the low latitudes; 12- Humans and climate change.



The growth in interest in climate science has intensified with the global warming debate. At the same time, the amount of good, critical introductory material has not risen to meet the need. This leaves beginners in a particularly vulnerable position of needing good information but being unable to distinguish between competing sources. There's also the point that some texts follow a more esoteric course through the subject than the way a beginner might. It's into this market that this book is aimed.

A very brief opening chapter points out the antiquity of the subject and the use of systems models in understanding. It also gives a very brief overview of the book's organisation. From this point, the book is divided into three unequal portions. The first part covers the physics, chemistry and dynamics of the atmosphere at a global level. Chapter two focusses on the basic components - gas and water, the energy systems that drive them, the methods of formation and the results of this activity. We can then take these components and look in more detail at the energy side (chapter three). Starting with incoming radiation, the reader is taken through global distribution patterns (horizontally, vertically and temporally). The net result of all this matter and energy is the creation of a series of motions throughout the atmosphere. Chapter four examines these motions and their effects at both global and regional level. Up to this point, the book has detailed the main components of the system. Chapter five moves to a different area in considering connections between systems - in this case, the ocean-atmosphere system with descriptions of a range of phenomena from hurricanes to El Niño. Chapter six looks at the causes and impacts of climate change showing how people have impacted/been affected by, climate change. Chapter 7 is another change in direction when there's a chance to look at climate modelling. Rather than try to describe the complexities of modelling it prefers to give an overview of the system and the factors needed to be taken into account. Chapter 8 brings us to the second part of the text. Up to this point, most of the work has looked at the global system and in a more theoretical pattern. The next four chapters (8-11) each take one climatic area and describe the key atmospheric and meteorological features. Thus we start the polar record and what it tells us about future climates, continues with more usual Western European frontal weather systems, moves on to continental climates seen in North America and finishes with an overview of the tropical systems (missing Australia with all its atmospheric quirks!). A final chapter makes up the third portion - an examination of human-atmosphere interactions from hurricanes to droughts and floods. A glossary helps sort out terms.

This is a very good text. It has two main aspects strongly in its favour. Firstly, the production and layout are inviting. There are numerous diagrams and illustrations (and two excellent full-colour plate sections), text boxes going into more detail on topics and providing case studies, sets of key ideas to provide an overview and the usual references, questions and web section at the end. Secondly, the topics have been re-arranged in such a way as to better prepare the novice which added considerably to the book's readability. Experts might want to look at quite restricted areas but beginners tend to think in broad terms and simple questions. By having the first portion look at broad concepts and the second to look at regional and local detail, the authors have been able to separate and clarify matters that other texts have, in the past, failed to do. For these reasons this should be seen as an excellent introduction to the topic and deserves a wide readership.


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