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Ice Ages: Solving the Mystery [Paperback]

J Imbrie
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Price: 18.80 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 July 1986
This book tells the exciting story of the ice ages--what they were like, why they occurred, and when the next one is due. The solution to the ice age mystery originated when the National Science Foundation organized the CLIMAP project to study changes in the earth's climate over the past 700,000 years. One of the goals was to produce a map of the earth during the last ice age. Scientists examined cores of sediment from the Indian Ocean bed and deciphered a continuous history for the past 500,000 years. Their work ultimately confirmed the theory that the earth's irregular orbital motions account for the bizarre climatic changes which bring on ice ages. This is a tale of scientific discovery and the colorful people who participated: Louis Agassiz, the young Swiss naturalist whose geological studies first convinced scientists that the earth has recently passed through an ice age; the Reverend William Buckland, an eccentric but respected Oxford professor who fought so hard against the ice-age theory before accepting it; James Croll, a Scots mechanic who educated himself as a scientist and first formulated the astronomic theory of ice ages; Milutin Milankovitch, the Serbian mathematician who gave the astronomic theory its firm quantitative foundation; and the many other astronomers, geochemists, geologists, paleontologists, and geophysicists who have been engaged for nearly a century and a half in the pressing search for a solution to the ice-age mystery.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; New Ed edition (1 July 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674440757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674440753
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 14.7 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 246,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Such a full and interesting treatment of this subject was long overdue. New York Times An absorbing account of one of the great quests of geologic science. Science

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic, but dated 14 Mar 2010
In case you haven't heard, scientists are very confident that they understand why the ice ages occurred. This book gives a layman's explanation of the evidence showing that ice ages were tiggered by changes in the amount of sunlight from changes in the earth's orbit and axis of rotation. The orbital and rotation changes are caused by the gravity of the other planets and the Moon, so you can say that the ice ages are just footnotes to the work of Isaac Newton!

John Imbrie was one of the leading scientists in that quest (co-author Katherine is his daughter.) The story is told historically, starting with Milankovitch, a Serbian engineer, who did laborious hand calculations showing how much the sunlight in the glacial regions changed, and also when. The evidence that clinched the case was obtained from cores of sediment extracted from the seabed. Chapters 10-16 are the heart of the book where they explain the obstacles the scientists faced, how they overcame them, and the tricks they used to put all the pieces together. It really is a first rate scientic detective story.

The book's main limitation is that it stops about 1977. That's a pity, because Milankovitch's sunlight changes are only half the story. The other part is the role that CO2 and other greenhouse gases played in amplifying the changes due to sunlight. So the study of ice ages and greenhouse gases has all sorts of implications for global warming. Geologists say that the present is the key to the past, well the past may be the key to our present and future.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Mystery Solved? 23 Sep 2011
This book is excellent as an account of geological history regarding the climatic changes in the Earth up until around 1990s (publish date). Since then there have been major developments e.g. "tipping point", IPCC predictions etc. all of which aren't mentioned in this edition. Not up to date but a wonderful read that for anyone.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Earth's past climate-more important than you think 6 May 2001
By Roger McEvilly (the guilty bystander) - Published on Amazon.com
As a geologist, this book answered a lot of questions I've had concerning the cause(s) of the ice ages. I'd known about rumours about the configuration of the continents, Milankovitch's astronomical cycles, variation in sun output, changes in ocean currents, and so on, for some years, but I really needed a detailed analysis of the historical arguments, and the more recent evidence as to why these changes in the earth's climate occur. This book answers just about all I needed to know, as well as being a good study of historical science. It was some time before all the pieces began to fit, and there are still some unexplained aspects, such as why the 100,000 glacial cycle is stronger than the 20,000 and 40,000 year cycles. Also, early arguments revolving around the Biblical flood are enlightening.
This book details all the theories, and the history behind their development. From deep sea radiolarians, to terraced reefs in the equatorial regions, to vegetation studies in Europe, to the level of snow on Ethiopia's mountains, to axis and ellitpical variations in the earth's orbit, to the gravitational effect of the pull on the earth from other planets, to oxygen isotope studies, to graphs of variation in thermal energy, temperature and sea level at different lattitudes-both expected from Milankovitch cycles-and actual from deep sea analysis, this book pretty much covers all you need to know. The only drawback is it has missed a few recent ideas in the 1980s to 1990s, but the story was pretty much over by then. Pretty conclusive evidence is detailed on how regular and episodic variations in the earth's orbit around the sun trigger periodically cooler climates than at present. These have been particularly strong in the last 1.5 million years or so, which is thought to do with the configuration of recent continental geography. In the last 7,000 years the tmeperature has dropped around 2 degrees, and will continue to drop over the next several thousand years at least, albeit very slowly, if it wasn't of course for the already verified greenhouse warming. Unfortunately, being published in the late 1970s, the book has not captured much of the recent data and debate concerning the greenhouse effect, but is nevertheless an intriguing and enlightening expose of earth climate variations.
The other thing which struck me just a little, was the fact that the major ice age periods in the earth's past have been at or around 3 interesting changes or developments in evolutionary history-the Permo-Carboniferous (ie Permian-Triassic extinction), Pre-Cambrian (multicelled organisms), and Quaternary-Recent (hominids). Certianly the hominid succession has been mostly within major changes in the earths climate, including significantly colder periods, and vast ice sheets across northern lattitudes. Maybe coincidental, but something to think about.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story and well told 17 Sep 2001
By Tim Parshall - Published on Amazon.com
You should read this book if you are at all interested in ice ages, geology, history of science, climate change, or just a good story. It's a quick but thorough telling of the discovery of the ice ages and how their nature and origin have been slowly uncovered over the following 150 years (and still going!). No other book does so much in such a short space on the subject. One of the authors was personally involved in the story, so he has insider authority. Unfortunately, this probably accounts for the slower pace of the last few chapters, where events close to him are described in much greater detail. And even though the book is only 15 years old the last chapter (on a future ice age and the potential for global warming) seems outdated. Still, the book is well worth a quick read.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting, readable book 9 May 2000
By C. E. Jones - Published on Amazon.com
In addition to providing an interesting explanation for long-term climate change, this book gives a fascinating account of the dawning realization first that the Earth had ever experienced an Ice Age, then that the Earth had in fact experienced numerous Ice Ages, and finally that the Ice Ages have come and gone in time with variations in the Earth's orbit. While some of the early work was carried out by the usual lot of well-bred and well-educated (but sometimes eccentric) elites, the stories behind Croll and Milankovitch leave one amazed at the degree of focus that some individuals can bring to bear on a problem. It is a level of obsession and dedication that has to excite a certain amount of admiration.
I thus recommend this book for its historic, personal, and scientific content. Read it!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical and Astronomical foundations. 12 Jan 2007
By Wesley Busdiecker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a readable account of the historical explanations for the ice ages. It provides some details of the lives of those involved in the building of the theory and the issues encounter in bring it to the front on science. The book also provide details on the current theory including the geological and astronomical evidence to support it. In addition in the last short section attempts to project in to the future what should be expected and a little of what is occurring that may change that. If you wish to know about the current ice age theory this is certainly one book to consider.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of Ice Ages and their mechanics 1 Dec 1998
By simon@spacer.com - Published on Amazon.com
I read this book a couple of years ago and was engrossed from cover to cover as i learnt about the Ice Ages the processes that are thought to drive them over millions of years.
According to the authors a complex motion of changes in the axis of Earth across all its cycles leads eventually to the conditions that result in a cascading drop in temperatures that eventually corrects itself via other climatic processes.
Easy to read and understand while maintaining a good narative of scientific process and discovery.
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