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Climate change is a major topic of concern today, scientifically, socially, and politically. It will undoubtedly continue to be so for the foreseeable future, as predicted changes in global temperatures, rainfall, and sea level take place, and as human society adapts to these changes.
In this remarkable new work, Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams demonstrate how the Earth's climate has continuously altered over its 4.5 billion-year history. The story can be read from clues preserved in the Earth's strata – the evidence is abundant, though always incomplete, and also often baffling, puzzling, infuriating, tantalizing, seemingly contradictory. Geologists, though, are becoming ever more ingenious at interrogating this evidence, and the story of the Earth's climate is now being reconstructed in ever-greater detail – maybe even providing us with clues to the future of contemporary climate change.
The history is dramatic and often abrupt. Changes in global and regional climate range from bitterly cold to sweltering hot, from arid to humid, and they have impacted hugely upon the planet's evolving animal and plant communities, and upon its physical landscapes of the Earth. And yet, through all of this, the Earth has remained consistently habitable for life for over three billion years – in stark contrast to its planetary neighbours. Not too hot, not too cold; not too dry, not too wet, it is aptly known as 'the Goldilocks planet'.
1: Primordial climate
2: Snowball Earth
3: Between greenhouse and icehouse
4: The last long greenhouse
5: An ice age begins
6: Last gasp of a warm Earth
7: Into the icehouse
8: The glacial world
9: The last ten thousand years
10: The Anthropocene begins
Dr Jan Zalasiewicz is Senior Lecturer in Geology at Leicester University. A field geologist, palaeontologist, and stratigrapher, he teaches various aspects of geology and Earth history to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and is a researcher into fossil ecosystems and environments across over half a billion years of geological time. He is the author of The Earth After Us and The Planet in a Pebble. He has published over a hundred papers in scientific journals.
Dr Mark Williams is Reader in Geology at Leicester University and a former scientist with the British Antarctic Survey. He has a strong interest in how the fossil record reflects changes in Earth's climate through time. He teaches many aspects of geology but especially climate change over geological timescales. He has published over a hundred papers in scientific journals.
"A balanced, well written, mostly comprehensive and well-argued book."
– Times Higher Education Supplement