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Book reviews

Climate Under Cover (second edition) 

By Tadashi Takakura and Wei Fang. Kluwer Academic Publishers. xi + 185 pages. ISBN 1-4020-0845-7 Kluwer Academic Publishers (2002). Price: US$ 83.

Climate under Cover examines the microclimatic effects of various types of covering materials used to improve crop yields. These materials range from mulches to rain-shelters to greenhouses. 

A simulation approach is used throughout the book using techniques based on MATLAB, a mathematical software used in many engineering courses and very suitable in the current WINDOWS environment. The elements considered are the heat balance, radiation, temperature, CO2, water and water vapour, as well as the responses of plants to these elements as modified by various types of cover. 

The book consists of 10 chapters of varying lengths. A four-page reference list at the end of the tenth chapter is followed by an eight-page appendix on the user interface of the climate-under cover-models used in the book and a six-page subject index. Problems are given at the end of each chapter to test the reader’s understanding of the contents of the chapter. No solutions or hints are provided, however. 

The first chapter of the book is introductory and describes the major types of mulches/covers in use worldwide to protect crops from unfavourable growing conditions such as inclement or severe weather, birds and insects. The text is clear and useful statistics are presented in seven tables. 

The second chapter discusses in some detail the various properties of covering materials. The third chapter on digital simulation introduces the reader to the principles of digital simulation techniques used in studies of climate under cover. The subsequent chapters build on these by examining in detail the use of digital simulation techniques in the study of the heat balance of bare ground (Chapter 4), solar radiation environment under cover (Chapter 5), temperature environment under cover (Chapter 6), the CO2 environment under cover (Chapter 7) and water and water vapour environment under cover (chapter 8).

The ninth chapter of the book entitled “Control function” deals mainly with greenhouse models which may be static or dynamic. Greenhouse models consist of four subsystems namely light penetration, heat and mass transfer, control function and plant growth. 

The last chapter is devoted to a discussion of the dynamic modelling of plant response to the environment with particular reference to plant photosynthesis and respiration, stomatal resistance of plants and plant growth and yield. 

Climate under Cover is basically a book for modellers interested in agricultural structures and environments. According to the authors, it was written for a computer simulation class at graduate level at the University of Tokyo. Readers are assumed to have a good knowledge of differential equations, numerical analysis and computer programming. The book is well produced and printed beautifully on acid-free paper. A few typographical errors in the text, notably on pages x, and xi, do not, however, detract from the quality of the book. 

Some details of the simulation programmes discussed are given in the text while the full programmes are available from the Internet at the two Websites given in the preface. The book will no doubt be useful to soil physicists, agriculturists, microclimatologists and biologists who have the necessary mathematical background and flair for modelling. On the other hand, those without good knowledge of differential equations, numerical analysis and computer programming may find it rather difficult to understand. Overall, I consider the book a worthy complement to existing empirical studies of the microclimatic effects of mulches of various types and greenhouses and their effects on crops. 

J.O. Ayoade


Climate Affairs—A Primer 

By Michael.H. Glantz. Island Press (2003). xix + 291 pp. ISBN 1-55963-919-9. Price: US$ 18.95.

This book summarizes knowledge of climate and climate change; the relationship between climate and various human activities; and economic aspects of the use of both climate information and climate and weather forecasts. 

The issues raised include a description and assessment of the societal impacts of weather and natural climatic processes, as well as the link between climate and food production, human health, politics and even ethics. 

The book’s seven chapters are all illustrated by figures, diagrams and satellite imagery. 

Chapter 1, “What is climate?”, defines the terms “climate” and “weather” and makes a clear distinction between them. The reader is given an understanding of the global climate system and the differences between climate variability and climate change. Special attention is given to global warming and its impacts, as well as an estimate, based on models of the global circulation of the atmosphere, of the possible increase in global temperature by the end of the 21st century. 

Chapter 2, “Climate and society”, describes in detail extreme phenomena such as droughts, floods, fires, ice storms and frosts, tropical storms and El Niño/La Niña. 

Chapter 3, “Climate and geography”, provides information on typical natural disasters in each continent. This information is repeated in the appendix, “The twentieth century’s climate extremes”, containing the dates of natural disasters, with population and economic losses, which gives the book a certain value as a reference work. 

In Chapter 4, “What is climate affairs?”, the question is divided into several components, in particular: 

Climate science contains a general description of the system as related to human activity, discussing, for example, desertification and possible human impacts on this natural process (irrigation, tree planting, precipitation enhancement). Large-scale projects aimed at improving living conditions are listed (creation of drainage basins filled with river- or seawater in dry, inland parts of Africa; use of Antarctic icebergs for moisture along coasts in countries with a dry climate such as Saudi Arabia, Argentina, etc.), most of which only exist in theory. 

Climate impacts covers the relationship between climate conditions and certain types of human activity such as animal husbandry and fishing, showing, through concrete examples of fluctuations in catches of cod in the United Kingdom and salmon in the USA and Canada, the great sensitivity of fish stocks to climate change. 

Climate politics describes how politicians’ interest in climatological problems became evident at the beginning of the 1970s with the collapse of Peruvian fishing in 1972/1973 and droughts in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It explains what the World Climate Programme is, describing in detail the role of greenhouse gases, while outlining the Montreal Protocol, as well as the Kyoto Protocol and the differing attitudes towards it in various countries.

Climate politics covers international security matters, giving a number of well-known as well as less familiar examples of the impact of weather conditions on military operations (e.g. the role of the cold winter in the invasion of Russia by Napoleon’s troops in 1812). 

Chapter 5, “Use of climate information in decision-making”, focuses on climate predictions and their use. The clearest example is the long-range forecasting of the 1997/1998 El Niño event with the reactions of various governments. A short section covers the problem of the Caspian Sea with its irregular fluctuation in level, the sometimes inappropriate technical solutions to stabilize it and very-long-range forecasting of the sea’s level in the future. 

Chapter 6, “How we know what we know”, and Chapter 7, “Conclusion”, contain more general information, including a discussion of research methods, psychological aspects of climate and weather, and some notes about climate history. 

Mr Glantz’s book is an attempt to make a comprehensive assessment of climate both as a factor of the environment and as a major element in the activities of human society. It is multi-faceted and filled with a wide range of information. The rich factual material is presented laconically and accurately, making the book interesting to read. 

Through its subtitle, “A primer”, which could be interpreted as “Handbook for beginners”, the book seems to be primarily intended for members of the general public interested in climate. However, it will also be useful for natural science specialists because of its informativeness and the many fields covered.

A.V. Meshcherskaya


New books received for review in the WMO Bulletin

Climate Change in Prehistory

William J. Burroughs. Cambridge University Press (2005). 
ISBN 0-521-82409-5. xii + 356 pp. Price: £19.99/US$ 30.

Climate Change in Prehistory explores the challenges that faced humankind in a glacial climate and the opportunities that arose when the climate improved dramatically around 10000 years ago. Drawing on recent advances in genetic mapping, it presents the latest thinking on how the fluctuations during the ice age defined the development and spread of modern humans across the Earth. It reviews the aspects of our physiology, intellectual development and social behaviour that have been influenced by climatic factors, and how features of our lives—diet, language, health and relationship with nature—are also the product of the climate in which we evolved. This analysis is based on the proposition that essential features of modern societies—agriculture and urban life—became possible only when the climate settled down after the chaos ofo the last ice age.

Climate Change and Africa

Editor: Pak Sum Low. Cambridge University Press (2005). 
ISBN 0-521-8364-4. xli + 369 pp. Price: £85/US$ 150.

At the beginning of the 21st century, climate change is an environmental issue of global magnitude. The poorer developing countries are the least well equipped to adapt to the potential effects of climate change.

This book presents the issues of most relevance to Africa, such as past and present climate, desertification, biomass burning and its implications for atmospheric chemistry and climate, energy generation, sea-level rise, ENSO-induced drought and flood, adaptation, disaster risk reduction, The UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol (especially the Clean Development Mechanism), capacity-building, and sustainable development.

Sounds in the Sea

Herman Medwin and colleagues. Cambridge University Press (2005)
ISBN 0-521-82950-X. xxi + 643 pp. Price: £85/US$ 100.

The oceans are vast, complex, mostly dark, optically opaque but acoustically transparent worlds that have been only thinly sampled by today’s technology and science. Underwater acousticians and acoustical oceanographers use sound as the premier tool to determine the detailed characteristics of physical and biological bodies and processes at sea. Myriad components of the ocean world are being discovered, identified, characterized, and imaged by their interactions with sound.

“Ocean acoustics” describes the traditional direction in which our knowledge of ocean temperature and salinity allows us to use sound to find fish, submarines, icebergs, and the depth of the ocean. “Acoustical oceanography” interprets the distinctive details of time-varying sound amplitudes and phases over acoustical paths to deduce the physical and biological parameters of the specific ocean through which the sound has travelled.

Increasing Climate Variability and Change

James Salinger, M.V.K. Sivakumar and Raymond P. Motha (Eds.). Springer (2005). ISBN 1-4020-3354-0. vi + 362 pp. Price: €99.95.

One of the major challenges facing humankind is to provide an equitable standard of living for this and future generations: adequate food, water and energy, safe shelter and a healthy environment.

Human-induced climate change, and increasing climate variability, as well as other global environmental issues such as land degradation and loss of biological diversity threaten our ability to meet these basic human needs.

The 1990s were the warmest decade of the 20th century, and likely to be the warmest for the last 1 000 years.  In addition, the frequency of extreme events is rising and many parts of the world have recently suffered major heat-waves, floods and droughts leading to significant loss of life and economic costs.

The range of adaptation options for agriculture and forestry is generally increasing because of technological advances, thus reducing the vulnerability of these systems to climate change. However, some regions of the world, particularly developing countries, have limited access to these technologies.

Agriculture and forestry are currently not optimally managed with respect to today’s natural climate variability.  Decreasing the vulnerability of agriculture and forestry to increasing climatic variability will go a long way towards reducing the long-term vulnerability to climate change. This book assesses the science of climate variability and change, and their likely impacts on agriculture and forestry, with adaptation strategies required to reduce their vulnerability.








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