Is the Temperature Rising?: The Uncertain Science of Global Warming

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9780691057750: Is the Temperature Rising?: The Uncertain Science of Global Warming

Most of us have heard the dire predictions about global warming. Some experts insist that warming has already started, and they warn of such impending disasters as the sea level rising to flood coastal cities. Others, however, have issued loud counterclaims, assuring us that global warming is a myth based on misleading data. How can we tell who is right, and how we should respond? And why is there no scientific consensus on a matter of such vital importance? George Philander addresses these questions in this book, as he guides the nonscientific reader through new ideas about the remarkable and intricate factors that determine the world's climate. In simple, nontechnical language, Philander describes how the interplay between familiar yet endlessly fascinating phenomena - winds and clouds, light and air, land and sea - maintains climates that permit a glorious diversity of fauna and flora to flourish on Earth. That interplay also creates such potent weather disrupters as El Nino and La Nina, translates modest fluctuations in sunlight into global climate changes as dramatic as the Ice Age, and determines the Earth's response to the gases we are discharging into the atmosphere, such as those that led to the ozone hole over Antarctica and those that are likely to cause global warming. In his discussion of these matters, Philander emphasizes that our planet is so complex that the scientific results will always have uncertainties. To continue to defer action on environmental problems, on the grounds that more accurate scientific results will soon be available, could lead to a crisis. To make wise decisions, it will help if the public is familiar with the geosciences, which explore the processes that make ours a habitable planet. The book is an excellent introduction to the basics of the Earth's climate and weather, and will be an important contribution to the debate about climate change and the relationship between scientific knowledge and public affairs.

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Recensione:

"S. George Philander ... writes with skill and cool reserve. Is the Temperature Rising? ... is a careful, step-by-step look at confusing data and clarifying science. He is literate, quoting Shelley, Coleridge, and Eliot. And he is reasonably sure we are digging our own grave, though he says so with such understatement that it is easy to overlook the doom and gloom." --William J. Broad, The New York Times Book Review

"[The author] guides us through this learning experience with grace, wit, and clarity.... Dr. Philander has tried to help us gain ... appreciation [for how significantly human activity is changing atmospheric chemistry] ... and he succeeds." --Robert C. Cowen, Christian Science Monitor

"The author explains complex scientific concepts in a precise language and with delightful illustrations.... The book is a pleasure to read." --Hans von Storch, Nature

"In Is the Temperature Rising?, S. George Philander examines the question historically, meteorologically, chemically and every other way. At the end of the well-written survey, you will know every detail of the subject. . ." --New Scientist

"Ought to be required reading for every eco-preacher." --John Emsley, Times Literary Supplement

"A book that can be easily understood by policymakers and scientists, but yet does not sacrifice any detail in background and process is most welcome. Philander may be the first author to write such a comprehensive book . . . Indeed, the author deserves immense credit for such a skillful presentation." --Geerat J. Vermeij, The Quarterly Review of Biology

Contenuti:

Preface
1 Between the Idea and the Reality 3
2 Is Our Planet Fragile or Robust? 11
3 Light and Air 31
4 Why the Peak of a Mountain Is Cold 55
5 Capricious Clouds 76
6 The Climate Tapestry 89
7 Weather, the Music of Our Sphere 106
8 The Ocean in Motion 125
9 El Nino, La Nina, and the Southern Oscillation 143
10 The Paradox of the Faint Sun but Warm Earth 161
11 Why Summer Is Warmer than Winter: The Cycles of Seasons and of Ice Ages 170
12 The Ozone Hole, a Cautionary Tale 183
13 Global Warming, Risky Business 191
App. A1.1 Exponential Growth and Decay 209
App. A1.2 Establishing a Chronology 210
App. A2.1 Gaia 214
App. A2.2 Chaos 215
App. A3.1 Earthshine 217
App. A3.2 The Scattering of Light 217
App. A3.3 Blackbody Radiation 218
App. A3.4 Effective Temperatures of the Planets 219
App. A3.5 The Greenhouse Effect 221
App. A4.1 The Scale Height of the Atmosphere 226
App. A4.2 The Adiabatic Lapse Rate 228
App. A5.1 Measuring Moisture in the Atmosphere 231
App. A5.2 Earth's Energy Budget 232
App. A5.3 How Many of Your Molecules Have Been to the Moon? 233
App. A6.1 Conservation of Angular Momentum 234
App. A6.2 The Coriolis Force 235
App. A6.3 Shape of Earth 237
App. A6.4 Gradient Winds 237
App. A7.1 Predicting the Weather 240
App. A8.1 The Seasonal Thermocline 242
App. A8.2 The Perpetual Salt Fountain 242
App. 9 El Nino, La Nina, and the Southern Oscillation 244
App. A10.1 Weathering 246
App. A10.2 Properties of the Planets 247
App. 11 Earth's Sensitivity to Perturbations 248
App. 12 The Ozone Layer 249
App. 13 Global Warming 250
Glossary 251
References 257
Index 259

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