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The West without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us about Tomorrow Hardcover – August 1, 2013


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The West without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us about Tomorrow + Natural History of San Francisco Bay (California Natural History Guides)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (August 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520268555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520268555
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #295,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A masterful portrait of how water shaped the American West. . . . Part detective story, part call to action, this book offers vital advice on how to fix the West's looming water crisis."
(Lee Billings Scientific American 2013-08-01)

"Reads with the surprising velocity of a murder mystery and the intrigue of a rigorous, detective investigation."
(Lou Fancher Lamorinda Weekly 2013-10-23)

"Could California run dry? As the West endures its driest year on record, having enough freshwater isn't a given—nor has it ever been, despite society's efforts to conserve and control it. Ingram and Malamud-Roam share how climate change has historically parched the landscape of the West and will lead to extreme water crises in the not-so-far future. Their foresight makes a compelling case for reducing our water footprint."
(Stanford Magazine 2014-03-01)

"Given California's importance in our economy and culture and the intensity with which climate vagaries affect that state, 'The West without Water' is an important and timely addition to your library whether you live in California or not."
(Anne Jefferson Earth Magazine 2014-05-01)

"An interdisciplinary, deeply researched, and well-written book."
(Water and Power 2014-01-14)

From the Inside Flap

“Ingram and Malamud-Roam’s book presents a remarkable mix of science, paleoclimatology, history, and poetic writing, telling the story of water in the West and how it is intimately tied to the Earth’s varying climate. The authors vividly remind us of two things: first, society ignores the lessons of past climatic extremes at our peril, and second, we can no longer assume that the past is a reliable guide to the future, as human influence over the climate grows. The climate is changing, and our relationship to it must change as well. This book tells us how.”—Peter Gleick, author of Bottled and Sold and coauthor of A Twenty-First Century U.S. Water Policy

"Earth’s climate has changed before, but always on a geological time scale. By burning millions of years worth of fossil fuels in a couple of centuries, humans have now forced atmospheric change onto our time scale. To make matters worse, in the American Southwest we have built a civilization on the assumption that we can get away with it. As The West without Water eloquently and passionately reveals, we can’t."—James Lawrence Powell, author of Dead Pool

“In this intriguing account of a past more distant than any we have known, these authors offer us all the rare gift of foresight about what counts the most: the direction our society must take to sustain the richness of life on earth."—Tim Palmer, author of Rivers of California and Lifelines: The Case for River Conservation




 

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Customer Reviews

Very thought provoking.
Peter
The clear prose and relevant images used throughout makes the book accessible to a wide range of readers without skimping on scientific rigor.
Young Reader
A layman can pick this book up and understand the past and future implications of climate change.
andrew breibart

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Young Reader on July 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book fluidly and poetically describes research methods used by the authors and their colleagues to learn about the geologically recent history of climate in the American West. This is relevant because the paleoclimate records indicate that, even before taking climate change into consideration, we can expect more severe droughts and floods than we have seen in recent history. The book recounts how water development projects in California and the Southwest have allowed population centers to boom where it would otherwise be impossible, and it reminds readers that humans are still to some degree at the mercy of nature.

Of course, any book on this topic must address the issue of present climate change, and indeed this one does, outlining current trends and predictions. Although these are ominous, I appreciate the perspective that the authors take on the subject, which is that being well-informed about our past can help us prepare for the future. Indeed, we must take these predictions seriously and prepare more effectively if we are to continue to thrive on this beautiful and beloved land we call the West. The final chapter offers examples of how our society can reverse environmental damage and cope with climate realities of the present and future.

A well-researched, well-written, and informative book, this is a great read for students, policymakers, and the generally interested public. The clear prose and relevant images used throughout makes the book accessible to a wide range of readers without skimping on scientific rigor.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By SamNed76 on October 14, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I highly recommend this enlightening book that is a wake up call about potential water shortages and floods in the western U.S. The book explains the connections between climate and water supply in a way that is easy to follow, and points out how both climate and water availability have changed dramatically in the past. The authors make a compelling case for why it is important to understand past climate change. Temperature, precipitation, types of vegetation, and wildfire frequency have had large swings over the past hundreds to thousands of years. They argue that over the past 150 years -the period of major population growth and water development - climate in the western United States has been relatively wet, but the region's climate history suggests that conditions could change back to a drier state in the near future. In one chapter the authors summarize the potential impacts of climate change to the region, and cite evidence that this climate change has already begun. They also argue that global warming, reduced precipitation with increased evaporation, and the earlier onset of Spring are all linked with larger forest fires. We are apparently seeing these projected future impacts happening now. The chapter on the 1861 megaflood was particularly intriguing - I was not aware that such huge floods had occurred in California, and there is every reason to believe that they could occur again. Overall, a well-written book, entertaining and informative; an excellent read!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By joseph Puzo on August 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Timely book with far reaching implications for the future of the west. With well written historical perspective really added to the scope and depth. Though I have lived in California nearly all my life, I had never heard of the great flood of 1861-62, that turned California's central valley into an inland sea. With magnitude of that flood, I am surprised I had never heard about it before. The authors' research paints a foreboding picture of the west's future with population increasing and water supplies plummeting.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Unrath on August 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is an excellently researched book on the climate history of the western United States. Chapter 2 on the great flood of 1861-1862 should be manadatory reading for anyone in California. What is frightening is a graphic later on mega-floods in California where 1861-1862 doesn't even rate a mention.

However, I now know more about isotope analysis than I care to because it is repeated several times. Once is enough. My biggest issue with the book is that having gone thorugh historic climate changess, I was expected a look (implied by the title) of what the future climate may look like based on the trends of the past. revealed That seems to be lacking. Like a mystery where you get to the big reveal only to find out it doen't happen. I would have liked ENSO, PDO, Astronomy, etc. as forcers of climate change to at least be pulled together for a prediction. The only thing marring an otherwise excellent book.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By The Traveling Monk on October 14, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book presents a series of markers concerning water and climate in the West. Chapter after chapter the evidence is presented to show that we have been living in a fairly wet time for the last 100 years, and the likelihood of the West being a lot drier than it has been is very high -- even coupled with some outlier wet events that should happen with regularity.

The book suffers from being a bit juvenile: "Now here is what I told you in this chapter and here's what we will say in the next one." While that device is perhaps useful, it happens several times per chapter, so I got fairly tired of reading all the forecasts of what was to be said soon.

The summary chapters start to present some actions that need to be taken. Such actions are probably unlikely to occur, so that part of the book is less relevant than the collection of information into a single book.

Overall, it was a good read.
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