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Title: Human Impacts on Weather and Climate. 2e.
Author(s): William R Cotton and Roger A Pielke. Snr.
Date of Publication: 2007 Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Pages:ix + 308 ISBN: 978 0 521 60056 9
Price:£29.99 Format:Paperback
Overview:
Target Readership Sen Secondary
Presentation/Style
Content
Literature
Originality
Overall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Content: 1 – The rise of the science of weather modification by cloud seeding; 2 - The glory years of weather modification; 3 - The fall of the science of weather modification by cloud seeding; 4 - Anthropogenic emissions of aerosols and gases; 5 - Urban-induced changes in precipitation and weather; 6 -Other land use/land-cover changes; 7 - Concluding remarks; 8 - Overview of global climate forcings and feedbacks; 9 - Climatic effects of anthropogenic aerosols; 10 - Nuclear winter; 11 - Global effects of land-use/land-cover change and vegetation dynamics. Epilogue.

Review: At first glance one could be forgiven thinking that what we really need now is another climate book. Yes, we know we're responsible for enhanced global warming and all the effects so we don't want to have the whole story re-hashed. The problem is that this isn't the whole story by any means. Only 30 years ago it was acceptable (actually, necessary) to teach the 'ice-age' hypothesis whereby pollution shut out incoming radiation and the Earth cools. Only a few cranks on the fringes would mention a complementary hypothesis called the 'greenhouse effect' whereby the same pollution would keep heat in! Then, of course there were the problems with the Russians modifying our climate to let their tanks win in Europe. If you haven't lived through this its hard to believe but, sadly, it's true. The real problem is that once global warming got a kick start it has acted like a juggernaut with all other aspects put to one side. This is why we need this book and what it's trying to say.

Put simply, this is a book that points out all human foibles regarding modern relationships with the atmosphere. In so doing it puts the global warming debate in a better perspective than many other, dedicated, texts. Here we can see how and why there are issues with global warming and why the picture, although virtually certain, is not 100% and may never be. However, we do start with the Russians or at least with their counterparts, the Americans trying to get rain out of clouds. Called 'cloud seeding' it is based on the Bergeron-Findeisen process of droplet formation via nuclei. The whole story and a few offshoots occupies the first part of this three-part book. We start with the briefest of overviews before launching into the complementary rise (chapter two) and fall (chapter three) of cloud seeding and their relatives, hail suppression and cyclone slowing. Part two looks more at the mainstream ideas of climate change through inadvertent impacts i.e. as byproducts of human activity. Chapter four examines the changes wrought by aircraft, ships and dust. This is followed by an description of changes caused by urban areas - not just heat island but other impacts such as changes in wind speed and direction. Chapter five continues this theme but for several other human activities e.g. landscape changes, irrigation, agriculture and deforestation. A two-page summary closes the section. Part three is the big topic - global warming. However, rather than take an overall summary, key aspects are taken in turn. The first of these is the effect of changes on the climate system. Taking the two elements - radiation and feedback - the human and natural changes are described along with the views of the IPCC on them. Chapter 9 introduces the impact of aerosols on clouds and what this means in terms of energy flow. Chapter 10 takes a turn in another direction completely with an examination of an idea popular about 15 years ago - nuclear winters. This is the notion that global nuclear warfare would produce so much dust and smoke that it would blot out the sun and cause dramatic reduction in heat. It might be a moot point to see if anyone would be alive to check the findings at this point but at least we can examine smaller impacts to see changes on a local scale. Finally, there's a chance to see how land use changes affect global warming. An epilogue brings together a range of brief comments that are intriguing leaving one to wonder why they weren't in the body of the text. The role of natural variability (a big issue in climate "denial") gains a mention as does science and marketing, public relations and politics.

The value of this book lies in the treatment it gives to a very wide range of subjects. It does not fall into the trap or arguing that every change is about global warming. It highlights a wider and greater interest of humans in modifying the atmosphere (or trying to) with varying degrees of success. The scope and the even handedness of argument makes this a very important book. In places it's a tough read for students but there's enough to make them interested in widening their thinking of topics of global change. Overall, an excellent addition to the debate on atmosphere modification.

 

 

 

 

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