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The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate (Science Essentials) Paperback – August 15, 2010


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Product Details

  • Series: Science Essentials
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691148112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691148113
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #619,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With so much dust and noise thrown up by those economic forces opposed to reducing carbon emissions, average readers may be hard-pressed to understand what all the fuss is about. Univ. of Chicago geophysicist Archer has perfectly pitched answers to the most basic questions about global warming while providing a sound basis for understanding the complex issues frequently misrepresented by global warming skeptics. Revisiting his technical treatment of the same subject (2006's Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast), Archer presents detailed science in layman's language. With a breezy, conversational style, he breaks complex concepts into everyday analogies, comparing for example the oxidation and reduction of carbon dioxide in seawater with an upset stomach. Divided into three parts-the Present, the Past and the Future-Archer provides a complete picture of climate change now, in the past, and what we can expect in years and centuries to come. His models, though conservative, imply that humans won't survive the environmental consequences of severe warming over the next thousand years. While Archer is neither grim nor pessimistic, he is forthright about what's at stake, and what must do to avert catastrophe.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Winner of the 2009 Walter P. Kistler Award, The Foundation For the Future

One of The Australian's Best Books of 2009

Selected to appear on ClimateUnited's Booklist of Top Books on Climate Change

"Worried about warming but confused about carbon? Try [The Long Thaw], which tells you nearly everything you need to know with down-to-earth clarity and brevity."--Evan Hadingham, PBS's NOVA blog

"Archer . . . presents the dire and long-lasting consequences of our fossil-fuel dependency but concludes that it's not too late for us to go a different, better way."--Avital Binshtock, Sierra Club Blog

"A beautifully written primer on why climate change matters hugely for our future--on all time scales."--New Scientist

"Archer has perfectly pitched answers to the most basic questions about global warming while providing a sound basis for understanding the complex issues frequently misrepresented by global warming skeptics. With a breezy, conversational style, he breaks complex concepts into everyday analogies. Divided into three parts--the Present, the Past and the Future--Archer provides a complete picture of climate change now, in the past, and what we can expect in years and centuries to come. His models, though conservative, imply that humans won't survive the environmental consequences of severe warming over the next thousand years. While Archer is neither grim nor pessimistic, he is forthright about what's at stake, and what must do to avert catastrophe."--Publishers Weekly

"It is comprehensive, well written and includes numerous useful vignettes from climate history. Archer leads the reader to a simple yet accurate picture of climate changes, ranging from geological time scales to current warming, ice ages and prospects for the future."--Susan Solomon, Nature

"The Long Thaw is written for anyone who wishes to know what cutting-edge science tells us about the modern issue of global warming and its effects on the pathways of atmospheric chemistry, as well as global and regional temperatures, rainfall, sea level, Arctic sea-ice coverage, melting of the continental ice sheets, cyclonic storm frequency and intensity and ocean acidification. This book will also appeal to scientists who want a clear and unbiased picture of the global-warming problem and how it may progress in the future. It encapsulates Archer's own efforts in the field of climate research, which I found invaluable."--Fred T. Mackenzie, Nature Geoscience

"The power of Archer's book is to show that such [climate] changes, which we can bring about through just a few centuries of partying on carbon, can only be matched by the earth itself over vastly longer periods. . . . It's the kind of perspective we need in order to realize how insane we're being."--Chris Mooney, American Prospect

"Global climate change is the subject of thousands of books; this short volume is distinctive in multiple ways. Archer is a geophysicist (and a look-alike--except for stubble--for late British actor David Niven), whose scientific background lets him place climate change in the context of its variations in geological history. He points out that the Earth's orbital cycles had poised it to enter a new ice age when human influences began to override natural forces."--F.T. Manheim, Choice

"If you think global warming is going to stop in its tracks as soon as our fossil fuel fix runs its course, think again. Intensifying hurricanes, mega-droughts, and the mass extinction of species are just the beginning, says leading climatologist David Archer, renowned in part for his work with the respected blog RealClimate. Though we still have time to avert the worst of climate change, he says, the ramifications of our carbon spewing (think a ten-foot rise in ocean levels) will last well beyond even our grandchildren's years. A good storyteller, Archer walks us through the history of climate change, starting in the 1800s, when the term 'greenhouse effect' first made its way into scientific parlance. Tempering techie speak with accessible analogies, Archer manages in the James Hansen-approved volume to speak to scientists and laymen alike."--Plenty

"Notice to climate change deniers: I don't want to hear another word about the Little Ice Age, cosmic rays of the Palaeocene Eocene thermal maximum event 55 million years ago until you've read David Archer's little book. He's a geophysical scientist at the University of Chicago and he knows his stuff. He sets out the latest scientific understanding of climate change through geological time, human time, and beyond. It's the clearest introduction I've seen yet to the complexity of the planet's climate system and how a certain bipedal species may know it gally wonk."--Leigh Dayton, The Australian

"The great appeal of this short book lies in Archer's ability to find easily comprehensible analogies and his no-nonsense prose. . . . This is a true rarity. A book about climate change written by an expert everyone can understand."--Sydney Morning Herald, "Pick of the Week"

"David Archer has written a highly engaging and accessible review of the scientific bases for anthropogenic global warming and the dilemmas of what, as a global community, we should do next. The text is written for a general audience, reflecting the aims of the Science Essentials series of which it is a part, namely, to bring the findings of cutting-edge scientific research to the public."--Tim Denham, Journal of Archaeological Science

"If you have time in your busy schedule to read only one book on climate change and climate science basics, this would be a good choice. Archer, an oceanographer and University of Chicago geosciences professor, has written a conversational, engaging, and short (remember, you're busy) book."--Natural Hazards Observer

"If you have time in your busy schedule to read only one book on climate change and climate science basics, this would be a good choice. Archer, an oceanographer and University of Chicago geosciences professor, has written a conversational, engaging, and short (remember, you are busy) book that covers the last 500 million years or so of the Earth's climate."--Disaster Prevention and Management

"David Archer's The Long Thaw . . . tells you nearly everything you need to know with down-to-earth clarity and brevity. . . . [R]eading The Long Thaw is sobering and enlightening rather than depressing. It's packed with informative, accessible background on past climate cycles and why they are relevant to assessing today's warming."--Evan Hadingham, Inside NOVA

"[T]he ideas expounded in the book are of great importance to the debate on climate change and deserve to be more widely appreciated. Let us hope that Archer's message becomes widely understood and acted upon before we find that we have already committed ourselves to damaging (and potentially irreversible) climate change."--John King, Journal of Polar Record

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

I think it is very well written and easy to read, especially for a complex subject like climate science.
Big B
This is not a thick tome for scholars but would be a great read for anyone wanting to get a quick overview of the science and issues.
Amazon Customer
Very small changes in solar energy input or carbon dioxide levels can lead to very great changes in climate.
Glenn Gallagher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 87 people found the following review helpful By John Mashey on December 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This concise (180-page), clearly-written book is an excellent first book on climate science for the general audience, generally not requiring knowledge beyond that of high school.

Since climate science is often befogged by climate anti-science articles and books, before buying a book, it is helpful to check the author before buying. Does the author have a sustained track record of publishing relevant articles in *peer-reviewed science journals*, is still doing so, and whose results get referenced and used by other working scientists? Nothing else really counts for much, in science.

In Archer's case, this is easy:

go to Google Scholar, enter:
David Archer carbon

Hint: serious expert.

Of the 50 or so books I own that discuss climate, this has jumped into the small group I recommend to people who ask "where should I start?"

I usually tell them to read a few books first to build a coherent science knowledge base, before spending much time on blogs and websites. It is worth reading several different treatments for comparison, contrast and complementary emphases.

My starter kit of generally-accessible climate science books is now:

1) This book.

2) William F. Ruddiman, Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum - How Humans Took Control of Climate (2005)

3) Michael E. Mann, Lee R. Kump, Dire Predictions - The illustrated guide to the findings of the IPCC (2008)

You can buy all 3 for less than $50.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Walker on January 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The book is relaxed in style, almost conversational sometimes, but nevertheless closely focused and packed with instructive detail. It was a pleasure for a non-scientist like me to read. He seems to understand how to illuminate processes for the general reader. For example, his chapter on the distribution of carbon in the atmosphere, the land and the ocean, and his explanation of the interactions between them in the carbon cycle, provided angles and information that pulled together satisfyingly the bits and pieces of my hesitant understanding. Similarly what he writes about the acidifying of the ocean by CO2 and the part calcium carbonate plays in slowly neutralising its effect is a model of lucidity. Other particularly helpful sequences include one on the relative strengths of four external agents of climate change - greenhouse gases, sulfur from burning coal, volcanic eruptions, changes in intensity of the sun. I appreciated his use of metaphor, particularly relating to the long period of glacial climate cycles over the past hundreds of thousands of years in which he envisages the ice sheets and CO2 "entwined in a feedback loop of cause and effect, like two figure skaters twirling and throwing each other around on the rink."

For now the carbon cycle is responding to the CO2 increase by inhaling into the ocean and high-latitude land surface, damping down the warming effect. But on the timescale of centuries and longer the lesson from the past is that this situation could reverse itself, and the warming planet could cause the natural carbon cycle to exhale CO2, amplifying the human-induced climate changes. Sea level rise is the most obvious long-term impact and there is no doubting the possible severity of this effect on human civilisation. It's a sober message, communicated gently.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Arthur P. Smith on March 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Archer's book seems scientifically impeccable but also targeted at those who don't know much about the basic science of climate. He repeats important statements in different chapters, for example, to emphasize the stuff we really do know. The focus here is not short-term, but long-term effects of CO2, and he presents a strong case that the impact of some of our human emissions will be there for almost as long as we expect our nuclear waste to stick around - several hundred thousand years. The big question is whether we stick to the 1000 Gt limit posed by all our oil and gas reserves and some coal, or go for the whole 3000-5000 Gt that coal and unconventional fossil fuels represent too - in that case in addition to the huge near-term climate spike, we have basically permanently changed the Earth (no more ice) for thousands of centuries into the future.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Gallagher VINE VOICE on May 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Long Thaw is refreshingly free of political overtones, although it attempts to address the thorny issue of what climate change means to humans. The author does this by looking into what the past climate held for the earth, as our planet essentially flip-flopped between very cold and very warm (we have been living in an unprecedented stable period of temperate climate for the last 10,000 years or so).

Lots and lots of science here, but none too daunting, that go into detail on how natural warming and cooling occur, with descriptions of sunspot activities, cyclical orbital changes, ocean mixing behavior, volcanic activity, and yes, carbon dioxide levels. Because the author takes such a long view in the past (and future), he avoids most of the current politicization of global warming discussion. He clearly states that cyclical warming is natural and expected, but then makes a good case that our current warming is likely to be almost completely human-made, as we should be entering a new ice age.

The Long Thaw is quite original in its discussion on important aspects of climate change. It does not re-hash IPCC reports, or discuss alternate energy sources. It doesn't even really scare the reader into thinking climate change is bad - it just points out certain facts, such as an inevitable rise in sea level if carbon dioxide emissions continue along a business-as-usual path.

A few things I learned from the book:

Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, on average, a few hundred years, but some remains for thousands of years.

Very small changes in solar energy input or carbon dioxide levels can lead to very great changes in climate.
Read more ›
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