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How Oceans,Weather and Life Link Together.,
This review is from: The Dance of Air and Sea: How oceans, weather, and life link together (Hardcover)The book is a worthy achievement by Arnold Taylor, who has made accessible to the reader one of the more enigmatic problems in environmental science. The author has confidently straddled three disparate disciplines from oceanography to meteorology and ecology. He traces the passage of 'signals' from the ocean, through one or more weather patterns, ultimately to have a significant effect on biological populations. The problem is the more intractable because cause and effect are separated by long distances and time intervals. It is a fascinating problem that takes the reader to improbable places as the author weaves into the text amusing anecdotes, historic bon mot, and scientific curios. So the book is interesting to read on more than one level.
The book is well-structured in taking the reader through the environmental and disciplinary compartments. Inevitably the links are sometimes tenuous - this is an inherent part of the problem - where the reader encounters oscillations, 'seesaws', and signals divorced from affects in space and time. Correlations analysis applied to the environment does not pin down causality with the rigour of laboratory experiment. Simulation models are the modern tool of choice and yield fascinating results when used experimentally. The Rocky Mountains create a large southerly meander in the track of weather systems, but when Richard Seager and colleagues 'removed' the Rockys, they found that temperature difference between Newfoundland and Britain was reduced by about 9 degrees centigrade.
The author tells us from Sydney Levitus and his colleagues' work that over 80% of the heat from the greenhouse affect, the so-called 'Missing Heat', is now known to be in the oceans. Actually the oceans provide an important heat sink that has deferred rising air temperatures. Without the oceans acting as a buffer, the consequences of climate change would already be much greater. To date, with a temperature rise of over 0.5 degrees centigrade in the North Atlantic, what effect might be expected to the NAO with future forecast increases in temperature?
The author's own relatively 'simple' NAO model, with output given in Figure 7.2, shows forecast behaviour beyond the data. Recent data corroborates model output beyond that illustrated, and gives confidence in the model. A longer forecast to the end of the century is given in Figure 10.2. While models that do not work are instructive, those that do are uplifting, as an accurate prediction provides what science is expected to do.
Given such an interdisciplinary tour de force, the reader feels some sympathy for the author as he accepts in the Epilogue that the positioning of the Gulf Stream remains elusive, and the behaviour of the plankton, enigmatic. I am reminded of Peter Medewar's descriptor of research as 'The Art of the Soluble'. The author returns inevitably to the need for more and better data, to 'monitor ecosystems as fully as possible'. There is no limit to the modellers' appetite for new data to which the only long term answer is satellite remote sensing. But then the author would have to part company with the longest running marine biological data set in existence.
I hope that the book will go to a second edition, when errors such as the omission of Figure 1.3 can be righted. Having shared in the gestation of Arnold Taylor's book for many months over pub lunches, I congratulate him on the outcome, and hope there will be more books to follow.