Atmosphere, Clouds and Climate, David Randall, Princeton University Press, Pp 277 (HB), $ 27.95
Published under a series of short authoritative books for students, researchers and scientists, this book written by a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, highlights the importance of atmosphere and clouds in affecting climate change.
Beginning with the description of the composition of the atmosphere, which is divided into different layers with the lowest being the troposphere and above which lie the other layers, the book says that since the atmosphere is a thin check on the large spherical Earth, air moves around it and which we refer to as atmospheric “circulations” in the form of thunderstorms, fronts, jet streams, tropical cyclones and monsoons.
One of the most important factors influencing the circulation is the rotation of the Earth, which has profound effects on large-scale circulations. Because of the Earth’s rotation, a point on the Earth’s surface is moving towards the east at a speed that depends on latitude and is fastest at the Equator. Earth’s rotation promotes the formation of atmospheric vortices. The hot air over the Equator rises as the sun’s rays reach it directly and emits infrared radiation back into space. The atmosphere regulates these radioactive energy flows and transports energy through the weather systems, such as thunderstorms, monsoons, hurricanes, etc.
David Randall explains how these processes work, how the energy flow and the water cycle in which the water gets heated over the Earth’s surface to rise as vapour and meets the clouds above to condense into water vapour and fall as rain; how the Earth, tilted on its axis, revolves around the Sun, changing the distribution of sunlight and causing the succession of seasons and how turbulence and cumulus clouds carry energy upward to the atmosphere and how other phase changes of water strongly influence weather and climate.
The book is aimed at college undergraduates who are interested in climate and who are familiar with basic physics and geography.
(Princeton University Press, 41 William Street, Princeton, New Jersey – 08540; press.princeton.edu)