The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future Paperback – 21 Jul 2002
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Winner of the 2001 Book Award in Science, Phi Beta Kappa
One of Choices Outstanding Academic Titles for 2001
"Although not all scientists will agree with Alley's conclusions, [this] engaging book--a brilliant combination of scientific thriller, memoir and environmental science--provides instructive glimpses into our climatic past and global future . . . "--Publisher's Weekly
"Alley's . . . striking finding is that the earth's climate has always been wildly variable and subject to dramatic swings--except during the past 10,000 years. So the period during which humankind has established itself across the globe and made the transition from grubby bands of hunter-gatherers to the dubious majesty of global capitalism corresponds exactly to a freakishly stable period in the earth's climate."--Angus Clarke, The Times of London
"With a highly readable style designed to capture and stimulate the imagination of his students, Alley explains some of the complexities of Earth system science with a minimum of jargon. This book is not just for students: it will be readily accessible to a wide audience that should be aware of its contents."--David Peel, New Scientist
"[A] provocative little book . . . a compelling tale of climate sleuthing . . .[Alley] is authoritative without being dogmatic, concerned without being alarmist."--Robert C. Cowen, Christian Science Monitor
"A fascinating journey into the geologic past and the history of the Earth's climate . . . Alley ends his entertaining book by polishing his crystal ball, envisioning what the future climate will be, and what we might do about it."--J.A. Rial, American Scientist
"A superlative account of a complex topic . . . It is refreshingly straightforward to read, often humorous, yet still deadly serious, complete with anecdotes and understandable explanations of complex processes."--Choice
"Books in which scientists write about their professional experience and describe in lay terms the stuff that makes them excited about science rarely disappoint. Richard Alley's The Two Mile Time Machine is no exception. It describes a fascinating journey into the geologic past and the history of the Earth's climate. . . . Alley ends his entertaining book by polishing his crystal ball, envisioning what the future climate will be, and what we might do about it."--J.A. Rial, American Scientist
"[A] superb book. . . . Alley demonstrates that the scientific understanding of climate is both a lot more complex, and a lot simpler, than public perceptions might indicate. . . .The Two-Mile Time Machine restores some of the joy of discovery that has always been present in scientific work, but is often lost amidst today's furious research pace and compressed news cycles."--Cathering H. Crouch, Books and Culture
"A fascinating first-hand story. . . . [A]n engaging narrative about the processes of obtaining, analyzing, and interpreting the ice cores. . . . Scientists, students, and the general public all need to know the present state of our incomplete understanding of the global climate system. This book provides an excellent foundation"--Al Bartlett, American Journal of Physics
Richard Alley, one of the world's leading climate researchers, tells the fascinating history of global climate changes as revealed by reading the annual rings of ice from cores drilled in Greenland. In the 1990s he and his colleagues made headlines with the discovery that the last ice age came to an abrupt end over a period of only three years. Here Alley offers the first popular account of the wildly fluctuating climate that characterized most of prehistory - long deep freezes alternating briefly with mild conditions - and explains that we humans have experienced an unusually temperate climate. But, he warns, our comfortable environment could come to an end in a matter of years.The "Two-Mile Time Machine" begins with the story behind the extensive research in Greenland in the early 1990s, when scientists were beginning to discover ancient ice as an archive of critical information about the climate. Drilling down two miles into the ice, they found atmospheric chemicals and dust that enabled them to construct a record of such phenomena as wind patterns and precipitation over the past 110,000 years.The record suggests that "switches" as well as "dials" control the earth's climate, affecting, for example, hot ocean currents that today enable roses to grow in Europe farther north than polar bears grow in Canada.Throughout most of history, these currents switched on and off repeatedly (due partly to collapsing ice sheets), throwing much of the world from hot to icy and back again in as little as a few years. Alley explains the discovery process in terms the general reader can understand, while laying out the issues that require further study: What are the mechanisms that turn these dials and flip these switches? Is the earth due for another drastic change, one that will reconfigure coastlines or send certain regions into severe drought? Will global warming combine with natural variations in Earth's orbit to flip the North Atlantic switch again?Predicting the long-term climate is one of the greatest challenges facing scientists in the twenty-first century, and Alley tells us what we need to know in order to understand and perhaps overcome climate changes in the future. See all Product description
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Yes, informative, because it describes in great clarity the major mechanisms of constantly changing climate over hundreds of thousands of years. And yes, entertaining, through Alley’s description of the daily hardships, challenges and excitement of drilling into the ice-sheet in sub-zero temperatures in central Greenland, and then carefully analysing a two-mile long, 5-inch diameter ice-core. And thought-provoking too, through his carefully detailed analyses of the possible effects of future climate change – and whether human activities have a significant impact on the changes.
Whilst tackling a complex, scientific subject, The Two-Mile Mile Machine is not written for scientists, instead Alley aims to inform the non-scientific reader of one the most incredibly important issues of today by using his practical experience in the Arctic and Antarctic.
Alley’s handling of these complex issues of constant climate change is so refreshing. His descriptions of the analyses of the layers in the ice-core, and of the ocean conveyers, especially the North Atlantic and the impact of ice-melts from the Hudson Bay and Canada, are particularly helpful to understanding the history and probable causes of climate change in the northern hemisphere – especially northern Europe. Highly recommended – whether you are a climate change sceptic or fully convinced of anthropogenic global warming.
The author leaves you with his best assessment, based on current understanding, of whether or not anthropogenic activities are likely to affect our climate. Credit to Alley, he leaves the reader’s final decision to you! Oh, and even though this book was written back in 2000, the results of Alley's ice-core research are still relevant to today's climate change debate.
The Greenland Ice Cap bears an astonishingly detailed record of environmental events. Far more than simply packed snow, this massive archive keeps information about distant volcanic events, how much salt is in the sea water and what kind of winds played over the Earth's surface. Even conditions in distant Asia are recorded here in the dust layered within the ice. There are records of long periods of cold and announcements about continental drifting. Alley explains all the elements that must be examined in the layered ice, how they came about and why they occurred. Earth's solar orbit, its tilting angle to the sun, and the slow precessional rotation of the poles. All these motions are further complicated by oceanic currents, wind patterns and humidity levels. Alley describes tracking some of the variations as "following a roller-coaster with a man bouncing on a bungee cord while spinning a yo-yo". It's a dizzying picture and he's quick to point out that many points remain unexplained.
Is this an issue that should concern us? Human history from the onset of agriculture has been a period of unusual stability. The future, Alley tells us, is highly uncertain. The only certainty is that climate will change - it must. Global warming is a fact, not a supposition, he asserts. One result of it will be the addition of fresh water into the "conveyor belt" of oceanic water exchange. The North Atlantic is the key site. Interruption of that exchange by extra meltwater from North America will intrude - chilling northern Europe. Human populations will be affected differently in various places. There will be winners and losers in this situation, but the losers will certainly outnumber the winners. How severe will the changes be? "I don't know". How fast will the changes come about? "I don't know". His lack of knowledge doesn't stem from lack of effort. He reminds us that the information gleaned from Greenland is still new. There's much to learn and do. He calls to us: "Send us your brightest students to help, and cheer them on!". A good piece of advice, but not one likely to be taken by a people choosing business instead of science. And that, if Alley's use of "English" measurements and reversed diagrams, will be limited to those comfortable with such practices. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
Book was in great condition, arrived in good time and is great value for money, I would recommend to anyone interested in science or a love of nature and learning!