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There is little dispute within the scientific community that humans are changing Earth's climate on a decadal to century time-scale. By the end of this century, without a reduction in emissions, atmospheric CO2 is projected to increase to levels that Earth has not experienced for more than 30 million years. As greenhouse gas emissions propel Earth toward a warmer climate state, an improved understanding of climate dynamics in warm environments is needed to inform public policy decisions. In Understanding Earth's Deep Past, the National Research Council reports that rocks and sediments that are millions of years old hold clues to how the Earth's future climate would respond in an environment with high levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Understanding Earth's Deep Past provides an assessment of both the demonstrated and underdeveloped potential of the deep-time geologic record to inform us about the dynamics of the global climate system. The report describes past climate changes, and discusses potential impacts of high levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases on regional climates, water resources, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and the cycling of life-sustaining elements. While revealing gaps in scientific knowledge of past climate states, the report highlights a range of high priority research issues with potential for major advances in the scientific understanding of climate processes. This proposed integrated, deep-time climate research program would study how climate responded over Earth's different climate states, examine how climate responds to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and clarify the processes that lead to anomalously warm polar and tropical regions and the impact on marine and terrestrial life.

In addition to outlining a research agenda, Understanding Earth's Deep Past proposes an implementation strategy that will be an invaluable resource to decision-makers in the field, as well as the research community, advocacy organizations, government agencies, and college professors and students.


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Additional Information

Publisher
National Academies Press
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Published on
Aug 2, 2011
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Pages
208
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ISBN
9780309209199
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Earth Sciences / Geology
Science / Earth Sciences / Meteorology & Climatology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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The hominin fossil record documents a history of critical evolutionary events that have ultimately shaped and defined what it means to be human, including the origins of bipedalism; the emergence of our genus Homo; the first use of stone tools; increases in brain size; and the emergence of Homo sapiens, tools, and culture. The Earth's geological record suggests that some evolutionary events were coincident with substantial changes in African and Eurasian climate, raising the possibility that critical junctures in human evolution and behavioral development may have been affected by the environmental characteristics of the areas where hominins evolved. Understanding Climate's Change on Human Evolution explores the opportunities of using scientific research to improve our understanding of how climate may have helped shape our species.

Improved climate records for specific regions will be required before it is possible to evaluate how critical resources for hominins, especially water and vegetation, would have been distributed on the landscape during key intervals of hominin history. Existing records contain substantial temporal gaps. The book's initiatives are presented in two major research themes: first, determining the impacts of climate change and climate variability on human evolution and dispersal; and second, integrating climate modeling, environmental records, and biotic responses.

Understanding Climate's Change on Human Evolution suggests a new scientific program for international climate and human evolution studies that involve an exploration initiative to locate new fossil sites and to broaden the geographic and temporal sampling of the fossil and archeological record; a comprehensive and integrative scientific drilling program in lakes, lake bed outcrops, and ocean basins surrounding the regions where hominins evolved and a major investment in climate modeling experiments for key time intervals and regions that are critical to understanding human evolution.
At the dawn of the twentieth century, a great confidence suffused America. Isaac Cline was one of the era's new men, a scientist who believed he knew all there was to know about the motion of clouds and the behavior of storms. The idea that a hurricane could damage the city of Galveston, Texas, where he was based, was to him preposterous, "an absurd delusion." It was 1900, a year when America felt bigger and stronger than ever before. Nothing in nature could hobble the gleaming city of Galveston, then a magical place that seemed destined to become the New York of the Gulf.

That August, a strange, prolonged heat wave gripped the nation and killed scores of people in New York and Chicago. Odd things seemed to happen everywhere: A plague of crickets engulfed Waco. The Bering Glacier began to shrink. Rain fell on Galveston with greater intensity than anyone could remember. Far away, in Africa, immense thunderstorms blossomed over the city of Dakar, and great currents of wind converged. A wave of atmospheric turbulence slipped from the coast of western Africa. Most such waves faded quickly. This one did not.

In Cuba, America's overconfidence was made all too obvious by the Weather Bureau's obsession with controlling hurricane forecasts, even though Cuba's indigenous weathermen had pioneered hurricane science. As the bureau's forecasters assured the nation that all was calm in the Caribbean, Cuba's own weathermen fretted about ominous signs in the sky. A curious stillness gripped Antigua. Only a few unlucky sea captains discovered that the storm had achieved an intensity no man alive had ever experienced.

In Galveston, reassured by Cline's belief that no hurricane could seriously damage the city, there was celebration. Children played in the rising water. Hundreds of people gathered at the beach to marvel at the fantastically tall waves and gorgeous pink sky, until the surf began ripping the city's beloved beachfront apart. Within the next few hours Galveston would endure a hurricane that to this day remains the nation's deadliest natural disaster. In Galveston alone at least 6,000 people, possibly as many as 10,000, would lose their lives, a number far greater than the combined death toll of the Johnstown Flood and 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

And Isaac Cline would experience his own unbearable loss.

Meticulously researched and vividly written, Isaac's Storm is based on Cline's own letters, telegrams, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the hows and whys of great storms. Ultimately, however, it is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets nature's last great uncontrollable force. As such, Isaac's Storm carries a warning for our time.


From the Hardcover edition.
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