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Eruptions that Shook the World Hardcover – June 30, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"I have to thank God on my knees that Oppenheimer's book did not exist at the time I made my decision to become a filmmaker. I might have become a volcanologist instead." Werner Herzog, Film director and producer

"With his characteristic sparkling brilliance, Oppenheimer expertly recasts the latest scientific findings on how volcanoes work as a compelling and readable account that conveys the enduring human fascination for Nature's fiery outbursts and their capacity to transform life on this planet." Professor Iain Stewart, Geologist and BBC TV presenter

"In his explosive book Clive Oppenheimer brilliantly shows how the history of volcanoes and people is a tangled account. From our earliest ancestors to travellers battling with the effects of ash clouds on airline flights, our evolutionary destiny has been played out in the shadow of volcanoes, often with disastrous results." Professor Clive Gamble, Archaeologist, Royal Holloway, University of London

"This is forensic geology in the widest sense and an exciting guided tour of the major volcanic and climatic disasters experienced by human kind. Oppenheimer has a rare talent for bringing the science and history together in a clear and engaging way." Professor Michael Rampino, Geologist, New York University

"Writing in his inimitably lively and witty style, Clive Oppenheimer takes us through deep time and deep into volcanoes, teaching us how they work and demonstrating how powerful eruptions have often jostled the human toehold on survival. This tour de force is an astonishingly provocative roadmap to the once and future history of Earth." Dr. Dave Pieri, Volcanologist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

"Oppenheimer romps through the geological past, detailing some of the major volcanic events and their global impact. ... well worth diving into." Kate Ravilious, New Scientist

"The hellfire-and-brimstone case studies ... seem like a product of a Hollywood screenwriter's imagination ... only they describe real events." Laurence A Marschall, Natural History October 2011

"Set out to make the average reader's murky perception of volcanoes a bit clearer, and managed to write a compelling tome fit for any to enjoy, coming as close to brilliant storytelling as a scientist is able...The more dry explanations were succinct, the exciting bits explored thoroughly and boredom averted completely. Oppenheimer made his prose modern by drawing comparisons with carefully chosen pop culture terms and euphemisms that should stay relevant for some time to come. 5 OUT OF 5 STARS" Meredith Greene, San Francisco Book Review

"Oppenheimer uses all sorts of evidence to unravel the stories behind some of the greatest and most significant volcanic cataclysms. ... I recommend Eruptions That Shook the World" Don L. Anderson, Physics Today

"...Oppenheimer explores the entanglement of human history and volcanic activity with rare and insightful brilliance....This book should be on the shelves of all volcanologists, historians, and environmental planners. It is a lively read for all citizens concerned with human futures." -T. L. T. Grose, CHOICE

Book Description

Did volcanic eruptions extinguish the dinosaurs and shape human civilisation? Clive Oppenheimer explores the greatest volcanic events of the past quarter of a billion years, using rich geological, historical, archaeological and palaeoenvironmental records. His forensic approach to volcanology links cause and effect, providing important lessons for future catastrophe risk management.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (June 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521534836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521641128
  • ASIN: 0521641128
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Clive Oppenheimer is Professor of Volcanology at the University of Cambridge. His research focuses on the gases that come out of volcanoes, and what they tell us about how volcanoes erupt. He is happiest when pointing spectrometers into the maw of Erebus volcano in Antarctica to read the pulse of its lava lake. But he has wider interests in the intersections of geology, climate, ecology, archaeology and anthropology, which are the focus of his book 'Eruptions that shook the world'. He co-authored the popular 'Volcanoes' textbook with Peter Francis, and has contributed to several TV and film documentaries, including Werner Herzog's 'Encounters at the End of the World'.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
The book certainly has much to offer.
G. Poirier
I highly recommend it to anyone interested in volcanoes.
Michael A. Cox
The story is well researched and referenced.
Eloise Haun, M.D.. psychiatrist

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on August 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I gave this book the above rating mainly because it is clear, authoritative, well-written and covers just about every feature of past volcanic eruptions that, I believe, really matters: scientific/technical aspects, environmental effects and impacts on humanity. Also, it is a topic that I find quite fascinating.

After describing in technical detail how volcanoes work, the substances that they emit, their effects on the environment and techniques used to date eruptions, the author reconstructs past volcanism based on available evidence, e.g., geological, archaeological, ice cores, tree rings, etc. He also focuses on a few well-studied eruptions and on lessons learned from them. This information is then used in the reconstructions of likely past eruptions of various volcanoes - both unknown and known - hence the term "forensic volcanology" on which this book focuses. The final chapter contains a discussion on the risks due to volcanoes and on possible emergency preparedness plans for those who could be affected by future eruptions.

With such a catchy title, one would expect that the book would be aimed at the general reader wishing to painlessly learn more about volcanic eruptions. The book certainly has much to offer. However, because it is rather technical and can be a bit heavy-going at times, I believe that it would be better suited for serious science buffs. It could also be used as a supplementary text in university courses on volcanoes and their effects.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Didaskalex VINE VOICE on August 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
****
"In his explosive book, Clive Oppenheimer brilliantly shows how the history of volcanoes and people is a tangled account. From our earliest ancestors to travelers battling with the effects of ash clouds on airline flights, our evolutionary destiny has been played out in the shadow of volcanoes, often with disastrous results." -- Clive Gamble, University of London

Global disasters make head news, and mega volcanoes resonate more than most. Often, the deadliest eruptions, like tsunamis come out of the blue. The author argues that such past events, when understood, is key to surviving the future. That could hold far greater disasters than the last recent eruption of the Icelandic volcano that shut down Europe's air space. From the Bay of Naples to the River Don, the little-known eruption, which devastated southern Italy happened some 39,000 years ago just as Europeans were developing stone tools. These are stories that don't make the Discovery Channel. Two centuries ago eruption of the Laki volcano, whose poisonous smog killed tens of thousands, as far away as England and France, not just in Iceland only. Death tolls are not the only measure of an eruption's influence on the society. Oppenheimer shows how a forensic approach to volcanoes geology reveals the richness and complexity behind the cause and effect.

Did volcanic eruptions extinguish the dinosaurs, or help humans to evolve, only to exterminate their populations with a super-eruption 73,000 years ago? From just the first chapter, the author's compelling style in the world of volcanoes becomes evident in his chronicles of "Eruptions That Shook The World.
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Frank Hasty on December 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very interesting and informative book, particularly in view of the current controversy surrounding "Global Warming" and/or "Climate Change". Some of the things the author points out that impressed me are some of the things we know, and some of the things that we do not know.
The latter are not trivial matters and seem to be ignored in our present headlong rush to "fix" the atmosphere.
My opinion following reading this book is that we had better proceed with caution while we continue to research and better understand the problem.
For example: A major eruption or meteorite, meaning one that would make St. Helens look like a firecracker could blacken the sky worldwide for weeks, months....or longer. Temperatures would rop drastically, probably along with wind velocities and other equally unpleasant surprises. No wind turbines, no photovoltic power, no light, no heat... then what?
We "humans" have been around for some 40,000 or so years and we think in terms of a human lifetime. However on a geologic time scale 40,000 years is insignificant. We need to be looking at a larger picture.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Al on February 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book explains the mechanics of volcanoes; the causes of eruptions, the various types of eruptions, and the effects of past eruptions on human societies. The author also suggests possible actions to mitigate the effects of future eruptions at vulnerable locations, such as Naples, Italy, and various locations on the West coast of the United States.

One caveat: if you buy the Kindle edition, as I did, the various charts are unreadable. The Kindles pixel definition is insufficiently fine grained to render the charts readable, even with a magnifying glass!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eloise Haun, M.D.. psychiatrist on July 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author is an awsome authority of international connections as to what volcanoes do to the earth and how life is influenced by them.
The story is well researched and referenced. It is a wonder how life continues on this restless earth and the atmoshere above it. It is reassuring that geologists internationally are collaborating with historians to understand nature. We are given some idea how fragile surival is and how we still have hope to survive.
The reader can be lifted into an exciting realm of scientific research, mixed with other disciplines on a scholarly level.
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