In the 1990s Richard B. Alley 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. In The Two-Mile Time Machine, Alley tells the fascinating history of global climate changes as revealed by reading the annual rings of ice from cores drilled in Greenland. He explains that humans have experienced an unusually temperate climate compared to the wild fluctuations that characterized most of prehistory. He warns that our comfortable environment could come to an end in a matter of years and tells us what we need to know in order to understand and perhaps overcome climate changes in the future.
In a new preface, the author weighs in on whether our understanding of global climate change has altered in the years since the book was first published, what the latest research tells us, and what he is working on next.
Richard B. Alley is the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. The author of more than 240 scientific papers, he was also the host of the PBS miniseries Earth: The Operators’ Manual.
"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
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations vii
Preface to the New Paperback Edition ix
PART I SETTING THE STAGE
1 Fast Forward 3
2 Pointers to the Past 11
PART II READING THE RECORD
3 Going to Greenland 17
4 The Icy Archives—Ice Sheets and Glaciers 31
5 Ice Age through the Ice Age 41
6 How Cold of Old? 59
7 Dust in the Wind 71
8 Tiny Bubbles in the Ice 77
PART III CRAZY CLIMATES
9 The Saurian Sauna 83
10 The Solar System Swing 91
11 Dancing to the Orbital Band 99
12 What the Worms Turned 109
PART IV WHY THE WEIRDNESS?
13 How Climate Works 131
14 A Chaotic Conveyor? 147
15 Shoving the System 159
PART V COMING CRAZINESS?
16 Fuelish 169
17 Down the Road 181
18 An Ice-Core View of the Future 185
1 A Cast of Characters 193
2 Usage of Units 199
Sources and Related Information 201