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The Global Carbon Cycle (Princeton Primers in Climate) Paperback – November 28, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


Second Place in the 2012 Book Series in the Professional Scholarly Series category, New York Book Show

"Archer's book, The Global Carbon Cycle, one of the Princeton Primers in Climate, is a detailed, but readable look at the science behind the way the Earth reacts to carbon and other factors that relate to global climate. He discusses changes in the Earth's temperature throughout history and the reasons behind. Such factors as the gradual warming of the sun and changes in the Earth's orbit are examined. Without some understanding of the science that goes beyond parroting what we hear in the form of sound bites on the evening news, we cannot have an informed discussion."--Brad Sylvester, Yahoo News

"[David Archer] clearly presents the treatments of changes in the Earth's orbital trajectory, anthropogenic increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, ocean pH swings, and temperature shifts. Archer's use of three different timescales to clarify Earth's historical climate cycles illustrates his mastery of thermodynamics and chemical equilibria."--Choice

"If you want to understand why scientists can't seem to find consensus on climate change, then this book, through its honest acknowledgement of how much we don't know and what we can't completely predict, will help."--Pat Thomas, Geographical

"An easily readable format, this lightweight book is an excellent companion to those who need a quick on-the-go reference or for those who need a compendium for their office or lab. . . . The Global Carbon Cycle is an authoritative book with numerous examples explaining scientific phenomena associated the global carbon cycle. The Global Carbon Cycle book also contains a glossary of terms along with an excellent bibliography for further reading."--Gabriel Thoumi,

"Archer's book is a must read for specialists and graduate students in geochemistry, palaeoclimatology, and modem climate change. This is an essential source of fresh information on carbon cycling on the Earth."--Dmitry A. Ruban, Palaeontologie allgemein

From the Back Cover

"Fossil-fuel carbon is our dangerous treasure. David Archer brilliantly and lucidly provides the essential background on Earth's carbon cycle that we need to make wise decisions about future use."--Richard B. Alley, Pennsylvania State University

"David Archer is one of the world's leading experts advancing our understanding of the consequences of carbon dioxide emissions in the context of geologic time. Archer's book explains how the consequences of our fossil-fuel economy will outlast even our nuclear waste. This book is essential reading--it wakes us up to the long-term consequences of our fossil-fuel folly."--Ken Caldeira, Carnegie Institution for Science

"Archer has written a well-constructed text that explores the major factors regulating atmospheric CO2 across different geological time scales up to and including the current human-driven trends from fossil-fuel burning and deforestation. He explains clearly and in an engaging fashion a number of difficult concepts associated with various feedback mechanisms between Earth's climate and the carbon cycle. The science is first-rate."--Scott C. Doney, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

"This book will serve both students and researchers seeking to understand this critical component of the Earth system. Until now, there hasn't been a text that clearly discusses the carbon cycle across time scales and that connects the often-confusing dots to elucidate its role in climate change."--Galen A. McKinley, University of Wisconsin--Madison


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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Primers in Climate
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691144141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691144146
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Archer is a computational ocean chemist, and has been a Professor at the Department of The Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago since 1993. He has published research on the carbon cycle of the ocean and the sea floor. He has worked on the history of atmospheric CO2 concentration, the fate of fossil fuel CO2 over geologic time scales in the future, and the impact of CO2 on future ice age cycles, ocean methane hydrate decomposition, and coral reefs.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Brian H. Fiedler on December 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
(1) There is no schematic of the global carbon cycle, indicating the magnitudes of the carbon reservoirs and fluxes, such as in the Wikipedia.

(2) There is no plot of the time history of a CO2 Slug (the net anthropogenic release) over geologic time scale. A plot of the amount in the various carbon reservoirs, and the fluxes acting on the reservoirs, would have been helpful for this prominent topic. A visit to the author's interactive models at his website remedies this deficiency somewhat.

(3) Though the geochemistry claims are all given formal citations, some of the climate statements are not, as on the bottom of page 138: "The argument is that dangerous stuff is already happening, in droughts and extreme weather events, and further warming is clearly dangerous."

(1) Truly a primer. Right at that beginning, the ubiquitous issue of Gton of C and Gton of CO2 is addressed. Likewise a rule of thumb for converting Gton of C to ppm is given, and the "per mil" unit is explained. What a relief to have these elementary issues treated with authority and without condescension. How many hours have been wasted in seminars because audience members were too embarrassed to ask for clarification?

(2) The use of isotope ratios to deduce the past history of Earth is a scientific triumph that is certainly worth sharing with a wide audience. A real treat for the reader.

(3) The dictum "Everything should be as simple as possible,but no simpler." is successfully followed. "Carbonate system pH Chemistry" is difficult to understand, as I suppose it should be. (I still don't get it).

(4) Many wonderful factoids about the Earth, life, civilization and fossil fuels are shared with the reader.

(5) The book has a high star per dollar ratio.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By toronto on December 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent, authoritative text, and not too difficult (there are side boxes with the more complicated stuff in them). I do agree with another reviewer that it needs more illustrations. An edition with better graphics would be great (of course, you could get his other books).

He also has fantastic lectures on his web site which cover most of the details of this book at about the same level. He uses this fancy imaging thing called a blackboard.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Global Carbon Cycle by David Archer, is one of the excellent series of Princeton Primers in Climate. These are short, economically priced (in the paperback or Kindle editions), slightly technical discussions of aspects of climate.

The carbon cycle is the movement of Earth's stock of carbon among its several reservoirs - the solid earth, the oceans, fossil fuels, the soils, the biosphere, and the atmosphere. The atmosphere is the smallest of these but it is also the one crucial for anthropogenic climate change and climate change more generally. The movements are complex, imperfectly understood, and, again, crucial for our understanding of the effect of carbon on the climate.

Archer's book explains much of what is known, something about how it is known, and discusses those things that aren't known, all in concise fashion. I liked the book and learned a lot, but I still have a number of complaints. The Kindle version is cheap ($19.25) and easy to carry on my phone, but the not very numerous equations are rendered as tiny images which are difficult (or were difficult for me) to magnify. In some cases, the author gives different numbers for the same quantities, like the amount of carbon in natural gas reservoirs, for example. To be sure, estimates vary, but I would prefer that he give a range rather than quote different estimates in different places. I would also prefer a more structured organization scheme, with more chapters and fewer topics in each.

Despite it's generally careful approach to the unknown aspects of the problem, the author occasionally lets his alarm at human caused climate change emphasize, or perhaps overemphasize, the worst case scenarios.
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Format: Paperback
I have "The Long Thaw" which I find to be excellent in pulling together information that I was aware of in bits and pieces. So I was excited to follow up with "The Global Carbon Cycle" but am put off by it being 2X as expensive, though little longer. From reviews it seems the extra expense has not gone into formatting graphics. And it is the same publisher. I'd like to think the extra dollars are going to the author, which would be a good thing, but I have to wonder instead if it is standard publisher exploitation of a targeted student audience?
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A. Klingler on May 10, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this to read using the iPhone Kindle app and it is literally unreadable. I expect a certain level of formatting goofs -- graphics can only be so perfectly translated -- but the text is butchered; words, sentences, and (I am forced to guess) entire paragraphs are dropped. Can't tell where the first chapter begins. I've never seen anything like it, even in figure- and table-laden books.

I am a big fan of David Archer, but man alive. Prof Archer, I'm assuming you didn't do this for the money -- pls assert some kind of veto power over the work. Nobody's learning about global warming this way.
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