The two-mile time machine : ice cores, abrupt climate change, and our future


The two-mile time machine : ice cores, abrupt climate change, and our future

Richard B. Alley

(Princeton science library)

Princeton University Press, 2014

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Includes bibliographical references and index

"First Princeton science library edition, with a new preface by the author, 2014"--T.p. verso



In the 1990s Richard B. Alley and his colleagues made headlines with the discovery that the last ice age came to an abrupt end over a period of only three years. In The Two-Mile Time Machine, Alley tells the fascinating history of global climate changes as revealed by reading the annual rings of ice from cores drilled in Greenland. He explains that humans have experienced an unusually temperate climate compared to the wild fluctuations that characterized most of prehistory. He warns that our comfortable environment could come to an end in a matter of years and tells us what we need to know in order to understand and perhaps overcome climate changes in the future. In a new preface, the author weighs in on whether our understanding of global climate change has altered in the years since the book was first published, what the latest research tells us, and what he is working on next.


List of Illustrations vii Preface to the New Paperback Edition ix PART I SETTING THE STAGE 1 Fast Forward 3 2 Pointers to the Past 11 PART II READING THE RECORD 3 Going to Greenland 17 4 The Icy Archives-Ice Sheets and Glaciers 31 5 Ice Age through the Ice Age 41 6 How Cold of Old? 59 7 Dust in the Wind 71 8 Tiny Bubbles in the Ice 77 PART III CRAZY CLIMATES 9 The Saurian Sauna 83 10 The Solar System Swing 91 11 Dancing to the Orbital Band 99 12 What the Worms Turned 109 PART IV WHY THE WEIRDNESS? 13 How Climate Works 131 14 A Chaotic Conveyor? 147 15 Shoving the System 159 PART V COMING CRAZINESS? 16 Fuelish 169 17 Down the Road 181 18 An Ice-Core View of the Future 185 APPENDIXES 1 A Cast of Characters 193 2 Usage of Units 199 Sources and Related Information 201 Acknowledgments 223 Index 225

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