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About this book
About this book
Beginning by outlining the history of El Nino, Philander goes on to explore how our perceptions of it were transformed, not because the phenomenon changed, but because we did. Philander argues persuasively that familiarity with the different facets of our affair with El Nino - our wealth of experience in dealing with natural hazards such as severe storms and prolonged droughts - can help us cope with an urgent and controversial environmental problem of our own making - global warming.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ix PROLOGUE: Assessing Our Affair as It Approaches a Critical Juncture 1 PART 1: WHO IS EL NINO? 1 A Mercurial Character 11 2 A Fallen Angel? 28 3 A Construct of Ours 34 4 A Matchmaker 40 PART 2: OUR DILEMMA 5 Two Incompatible Cultures 65 6 "Small" Science versus "Big" Science 81 PART 3: COMMON GROUND 7 The Perspective of a Painter 93 8 The Perspective of a Poet 118 9 The Perspective of a Musician 129 10 A Marriage of the "Hard" and "Soft" Sciences 139 11 The Cloud 151 PART 4: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SCIENCE 12 Predicting the Weather 161 13 Investigating the Atmospheric Circulation 177 14 Exploring the Oceans 189 15 Reconciling Divergent Perspectives on El Nino 213 16 Taking a Long-Term Geological View 227 PART 5: COPING WITH HAZARDS 17 Famines in India 237 18 Fisheries of Peru 240 19 Droughts in Zimbabwe 244 EPILOGUE: Becoming Custodians of Planet Earth 251 NOTES AND REFERENCES 259 INDEX 273
George Philander is Knox Taylor Professor of Geosciences (Meteorology) at Princeton University. He is the author of "Is the Temperature Rising: The Uncertain Science of Global Warming" (Princeton).
275 pages, Illus, 3 tabs
George Philander provides [an understanding of El Nino] simply and authoritatively. He does so, not by losing the reader in elaborate descriptions of data acquisition and mathematical modeling, but by the apt use of analogies drawn from the viewpoints of the poet, musician and painter. -- Richard Shelton Times Literary Supplement Our Affair with El Nino is a very readable, entertaining and instructive book that will appeal to scientists and non-scientists alike... [Philander] writes with the enthusiasm of an eye-witness and the authority of an expert. The book skillfully weaves together descriptions of El Nino physics, the historical backdrop that led to widespread interest in El Nino, and the philosophical perspectives on the role of scientific research in addressing present-day environmental problems. -- Michael J. McPhaden Nature [Philander] presents the current scientific understanding of El Nino concisely, explaining the details of circulation in the ocean and atmosphere with lucid analogies and thoughtful examples. He describes the broad outlines of how this understanding emerged, piecemeal, along complex and tangled paths. It is as a work in the history of science that the book makes its greatest contributions. -- Benjamin S. Orlove American Scientist