Climate and The Oceans - Princeton Primers in Climate: A Book Review

Book review by Gabriel Thoumi, special to mongabay.com
January 25, 2012

Climate and The Oceans by Dr. Geoffrey K. Vallis provides a coherent, well-articulated primer on how the oceans impact the Earth's climate. This easy-to-read illustrated book, filled with both data and accessible mathematical equations demonstrating the impact of the oceans on the Earth's climate, offers practitioners and stakeholders' state-of-the-art scientific analysis of how the oceans and climate interact that is both user friendly to the non-expert yet scientifically rigorous enough as bridge material for graduate students as they grapple with the compelling field of climate science and oceanography.

Climate and The Oceans provides an overview of the interaction between the oceans and the climate. It then follows this with chapters on circulation, seasonality, latitudinal and longitudinal heat transport from the oceans' floor to its surface, climate variability, and global warming. It is also includes a succinct glossary along with chapter notes and suggested readings organized by topics.

Dr. Vallis writes an effectively organized and cogent analysis of two particular issues that stand out. These two issues are probability and timescales. Probability means the possibility that an outcome will occur given a set of variables. Timescales means if this outcome does occur, over what timescale this outcome might occur.

For example, while it is known that climate change and the Earth's oceans have specific feedback loops with possibly catastrophic outcomes - think of the melting of the great ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica and this impact on sea level rise, acidification, the thermohaline, North Atlantic gyre circulation rates, and others - it is not necessarily clear what the probability of these impacts will be over which timescales.

Because many calculations of the carbon cycle demonstrate that even after greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide emissions cease, the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will not diminish because greenhouse gases have significant long-term half-lives in the atmosphere. This suggests that while scientists today may not know what the exact probability is on a short-term timescale, such as ten-years, that, for example, the great ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica will melt within this short-term timeframe, these ice sheets over the long-term, such as 100-years, will have a significantly increased probability of melting. This would result in possible 5°C (and even 10°C) increases in our Earth's current temperature resulting in unparalleled catastrophic impacts on the Earth's oceans and life on Earth that scientists currently can only model partially.

Climate and The Oceans is part of Princeton Primers in Climate, a series of precise and state-of-the-art authoritative books that explain the current state of climate science research. These authoritative, short books are written specifically for stakeholders, students, researchers, and scientifically oriented general readers needing precise, easy-to-read resources on global climate change and climate science. These books at Princeton Primers in Climate are a superb resource to find meticulous, detailed, and clearly presented facts on climate change science.

How to order:

Climate and The Oceans

Paperback: 231 Pages

Publisher: Princeton University Press

ISBN: 9780691150284

Authors: Dr. Geoffrey K. Vallis

Gabriel Thoumi, CFA is a frequent contributor to Mongabay.com.

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Book review by Gabriel Thoumi, special to mongabay.com (January 25, 2012).

Climate and The Oceans - Princeton Primers in Climate: A Book Review.