From the glaciers of the Alps to the towering cumulonimbus clouds of the Caribbean and the unexpectedly chaotic flows of the North Atlantic, Waters of the World is a tour through 150 years of the history of a significant but underappreciated idea: that the Earth has a global climate system made up of interconnected parts, constantly changing on all scales of both time and space. A prerequisite for the discovery of global warming and climate change, this idea was forged by scientists studying water in its myriad forms. This is their story.
Linking the history of the planet with the lives of those who studied it, Sarah Dry follows the remarkable scientists who summited volcanic peaks to peer through an atmosphere's worth of water vapor, cored mile-thick ice sheets to uncover the Earth's ancient climate history, and flew inside storm clouds to understand how small changes in energy can produce both massive storms and the general circulation of the Earth's atmosphere. Each toiled on his or her own corner of the planetary puzzle. Gradually, their cumulative discoveries coalesced into a unified working theory of our planet's climate.
We now call this field climate science, and in recent years it has provoked great passions, anxieties, and warnings. But no less than the object of its study, the science of water and climate is – and always has been – evolving. By revealing the complexity of this history, Waters of the World delivers a better understanding of our planet's climate at a time when we need it the most.
2 Hot Ice
3 See-Through Clouds
4 Number of the Monsoon
5 Hot Towers
6 Fast Water
7 Old Ice
Sarah Dry has been studying the history of meteorology and climate for more than 10 years. Her previous books include a biography of Marie Curie (2004) and The Newton Papers (2013). Born and raised in Philadelphia, she worked in environmental journalism, academic publishing, and biotechnology before moving to London in 2001 to study the history of science. She lives in Oxford with her family, and is on the board of the Science Museum.
"Waters of the World sparkles with lyricism and wit. Dry is a gifted storyteller, and her research into the pre-history of Earth system science has turned up gripping tales of risk, adventure, defiance, and discovery. A unique and important book."
– Deborah R. Coen, author of Climate in Motion: Science, Empire, and the Problem of Scale