on 31 August 2008
A very readable primer aimed at the general public on what is now known about past climate change and how scientists have determined this. In covering this Turney introduces us to many of the pivotal figures that over the centuries have contributed to our knowledge and understanding. Ice Mud and Blood covers the history of the science as well as the science of climate change. The book covers `snowball earth', why earth cooled since the time of the dinosaurs, the discovery of ice ages and the mechanisms that caused them, changes to earths' climate (when the Sahara was green, Medieval Warm Period, Little Ice Age etc) since the end of the last ice age up until present; the roles played by the oceans, ocean currents, volcanoes, tectonic plates, astronomical (Milankovitch) cycles and much else besides. Importantly the author also describes in an easy to understand way how scientists arrived at their findings and conclusions. Turney also explains the role of CO2 and why the current scientific consensus is that higher levels of greenhouse gases will raise earth's temperature with corresponding shifts to climate and weather. One lesson from human history is that we should be asking the question "will climate change mean things get wetter or dryer where I live?" Extremes of climate can have profound effects on human society's ability to support itself. This book is worth reading alongside Brian Fagan, William Boroughs and other writers in this field.
on 5 July 2009
In Ice, Mud and Blood, Chris Turney sets out to provide a brief potted story of the Earth's climate history. This covers the whole range of time, from deep geological times 500 million years ago but concentrating on the more recent 100,000 years or so
It is a book I would very much like to recommend - it is written by an academic in a nice friendly style but I think there are two drawbacks. First he is not very good on his narrative. He tends to meander off, indeed giving a fascinating sidelights into the history of the various topics, but at the end of each chapter I found that too often I said to myself: what exactly have I learned in this chapter?
The second problem is that he tends to pull his punches when it comes to controversies. Climate change is a highly contentious subject and one would very much like to have a book where they are explained. For instance, he mentions Mike Mann's hockey stick theory on page 189 but he gave no indication that this is an incredibly controversial theory that is under attack both by the archaeologists for omitting the mediaeval warm period and I gather by the mathematicians too. Similarly in dealing with the Vostok ice core -- which he explained in a fascinating aside -- he mentions briefly the problem that apparently it shows that the increase in greenhouse gases appears to follow changes in temperature and not to precede them -- but then he doesn't really explain why this evidence should be not be admitted.
I like to recommend this book wholeheartedly and give it five stars, but in the final judgement it is a little disappointing and only really deserves three stars.
on 22 December 2010
This is great short book, written in a highly accessible style, offers a number of very interesting insights into some of the ways how scientists have reconstructed past climates.
Whilst Turney does tend to go off on tangents and sometimes the chapters prove a little inconclusive (as mentioned in other reviews) this both adds interesting narrative to the story and represents a more fair discussion of the topic than is often presented in many other popular science books.
I would strongly recommend this book to readers from a wide range of backgrounds, but perhaps especially to those who feel they want more information on the claims made by science with regards to future climate changes, and those entering higher education from college/school level study.
All in all, a very entertaining book.