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 Niño and La Niña, 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.
1. Between the Idea and the Reality
2. Is Our Planet Fragile or Robust?
3. Light and Air
4. Why the Peak of a Mountain Is Cold
5. Capricious Clouds
6. The Climate Tapestry
7. Weather, the Music of Our Sphere
8. The Ocean in Motion
9. El Nino, La Nina, and the Southern Oscillation
10. The Paradox of the Faint Sun but Warm Earth
11. Why Summer Is Warmer than Winter: The Cycles of Seasons and of Ice Ages
12. The Ozone Hole, a Cautionary Tale
13. Global Warming, Risky Business
App. A1.1. Exponential Growth and Decay
App. A1.2. Establishing a Chronology
App. A2.1. Gaia
App. A2.2. Chaos
App. A3.1. Earthshine
App. A3.2. The Scattering of Light
App. A3.3. Blackbody Radiation
App. A3.4. Effective Temperatures of the Planets
App. A3.5. The Greenhouse Effect
App. A4.1. The Scale Height of the Atmosphere
App. A4.2. The Adiabatic Lapse Rate
App. A5.1. Measuring Moisture in the Atmosphere
App. A5.2. Earth's Energy Budget
App. A5.3. How Many of Your Molecules Have Been to the Moon?
App. A6.1. Conservation of Angular Momentum
App. A6.2. The Coriolis Force
App. A6.3. Shape of Earth
App. A6.4. Gradient Winds
App. A7.1. Predicting the Weather
App. A8.1. The Seasonal Thermocline
App. A8.2. The Perpetual Salt Fountain
App. 9. El Nino, La Nina, and the Southern Oscillation
App. A10.1. Weathering
App. A10.2. Properties of the Planets
App. 11. Earth's Sensitivity to Perturbations
App. 12. The Ozone Layer
App. 13. Global Warming
S. George Philander is Professor of Geosciences at Princeton University. He is the author of El Niño, La Niña, and the Southern Oscillation.
"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