Category Archives: Books

Recommended Book “My Life: From Riches To Rags and (Almost) Back! – A Memoire” By S. Ichtiaque Rasool

I have had the pleasure to meet and work with S. Ichtiaque Rasool as part of the work with the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme.  He is an outstanding , internationally well-respected colleague and climate scientist.  His professional writings are broad and seminal contributions, and involve other planets as well as Earth (e.g. see).

I was privileged to published with Ichtiaque in the papers

Chase, T.N., K. Wolter, R.A. Pielke Sr., and Ichtiaque Rasool, 2006: Was the 2003 European summer heat wave unusual in a global context? Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L23709, doi:10.1029/2006GL027470

Chase, T.N., K. Wolter, R.A. Pielke Sr., and Ichtiaque Rasool, 2008: Reply to comment by W.M. Connolley on ‘‘Was the 2003 European summer heat wave unusual in a global context?’’Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L02704, doi:10.1029/2007GL031574.

He recently has published an autobiography

 My Life: From Riches To Rags and (Almost) Back! – A Memoire”

which I highly recommend. It is a story, worthy of a novel!  He has lived in India, Pakistan,  France and the United States, and has spent time in a wide range of other countries. His life is a motivation to all of us, including young students as they chose their career path.  Ichtiaque’s honest and candid presentation of both his positive and negative experiences with buerauracy are invaluable.  

I highly recommend reading this book.

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An Insightful Review By Brendan Barrett Of The Book Authored By Roger A. Pielke Jr – The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming

There is an informative review of

The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming by Roger A. Pielke Jr

by Brandan Barrett of the United Nations University as posted on my son’s weblog. The review is

What kind of climate fix would you prefer?

 With respect to the perspective that we have urged be adopted in our article

Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell,  W. Rossow,  J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian,  and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union.

this review further emphasizes this view in the text

“Pielke’s approach to climate science and policy-making is based on pragmatism and common sense. He accepts that CO2 influences the climate system, perhaps irreversibly, but points out that even if we succeed in reducing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere to a low level, “we would not have solved the larger challenge of addressing human influences on the climate system”. Put simply, stabilizing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere would not stop climate change if other human influences remain unaddressed (e.g., deforestation, urbanization, desertification, atmospheric aerosols, etc.).”

The entire review (and the book) are worth reading.

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An Excellent Review Of “Climate Fix – What Scientists And Politcians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming”

My son’s book Climate Fix is now available at your book stores.  One review of this book [from ReviewSien] summarizes its contribution succinctly

“The book is the best single book I’ve read on climate change and climate policy.”

I recommend your reading the entire review. I also look forward to reading more reviews of his book!

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Climate Fix Is Available

My son’s book Climate Fix is now available. I highly recommend it!

The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming by Roger Pielke Jr.

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Recommended Book “The Climate Fix” By Roger A. Pielke Jr.

Most readers of my weblog also probably read that of my son’s [].  For those who do not, however, I am reposting his announcement of yesterday;

Free Preview of The Climate Fix

I have read the book and it should be read by everyone who is interested in climate science and climate policy. I 100% support his recommended path forward.

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Adaptive Governance and Climate Change – Book Reviewed By Madhav Khandekar

Madhav Khandekar has an informative review of the book “Adaptative Governance and Climate Change” by Ronald D. Brunner and Amanda H. Lynch.

The review includes such insightful comments as

“The emergence of adaptive governance in recent years at local and regional levels is described as an outgrowth of UNFCCC’s unsuccessful attempts to come to terms with developed vs developing nations on GHG targets. The adaptive governance approach is characterized as a ‘bottoms up’ approach to climate change rather than the ‘top down’ approach taken by UNFCCC and its ongoing process of negotiating world-wide GHG targets.”


“The book presents a refreshing look at the climate change issue and how to cope with future climate change impacts. This is a significant departure from the IPCC’s mitigation approach, which has been stymied so far, due to lack of political will and many other socioeconomic parameters. The concept of a simple adaptation strategy is now gaining traction and this book provides a useful background on how this can become more effective and more acceptable in future.”

Read the entire Review here  

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Review of Mike Smith’s Book “Warnings” – A Truely Exceptional Contribution To Meteorology

About two weeks ago I was sent a copy of the book

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith (Hardcover – May 1, 2010)

[Mike’s weblog is].

I was asked to review, and, as a courtesy to a professional colleague, I agreed to do that. I did not expect, however, that I would be riveted to such a truly outstanding contribution to the history of meteorology!

His autobiographical discussion of his experiences, as well as others, with tornados, microbursts from severe thunderstorms, and hurricanes, and the development of improvements in the monitoring and dissemination of their threats that the public and commerce face with this weather feature is as interesting as the best fiction novel!  He presents the plot, provides the (real world) characters, and builds each story in the book to its climax event, whether it is a tornado, a microburst or a hurricane. After reading, you learn quite a bit about not only the science of forecasting, but also the people who were involved. 

Mike also candidly illustrates serious issues with bureaucratic involvement with the development of the improvements in forecasting and the distribution of weather information, including examples from the National Weather Service, the Air Force, Federal Emergency Management Agency and others.

He presents an effective, and very well written,  evolution of how the work of the National Weather Service, private corporations and others has prevented thousands of deaths. Ted Fujita (who I was also fortunate enough to know also) was appropriately recognized for his seminal contributions to severe thunderstorm knowledge.

The Greensburg, Kansas tornado of 2007 is presented at the end of the book to illustrate how far the meteorological community has come in alerting us to the deadly threat of F4 and F5 tornadoes.  Mike was (and remains) a major contributor to why we have made so many improvements to severe thunderstorm forecasting and why so many lives have been saved.

I highly recommend this exceptional book.

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Living on the Edge – Changing Wetlands in the Sahel – A Book Review by Henk Tennekes

Dear friends in the blogosphere, I received a precious gift from a Dutch friend a little while ago. Living on the Edge: Wetlands and Birds in a Changing Sahel is a massive book, comprising 564 pages in full color and countless stunning photographs (see footnote for publication details). The tragic story of the Senegal River Delta described in this book reminded me of Roger Pielke’s studies of climate change in Florida, caused by the drainage of swamps and the southward march of citrus plantations over the last century. In 1985, I saw with my own eyes how the River Jordan is drained to a trickle flow to irrigate the fertile soil at the foot of the Carmel Ridge. I know of the enormous amount of water drained from the Colorado River to irrigate California’s Central  Imperial Valley, and, like many others, I worry what will happen to the western prairie states after the Ogallala Aquifer, from which 26 billion cubic meters of water is extracted annually, has been depleted.

There is much more to climate change than the rallying cries about Global Warming suggest. Nowhere is this made clearer than in the Sahel, a narrow strip of African countryside between the Sahara Desert in the North and the rain forest along the Gulf of Guinea in the south. The annual rainfall in the Sahara is only 20 millimeters, but 400 kilometers to the south the annual precipitation reaches 2000 millimeters or more. In the Sahel, plants, animals and people live on the edge of what is ecologically sustainable. Living on the edge of the cliff, as it were. The title of the book projects an apocalyptic image.

This problem became acute around 1965, when the entire Sahel threatened to succumb to desertification. No one less than Jule Charney, the great meteorologist we all admired, studied this issue in great detail. In conversations with George Platzman, he said : “at that time we were getting news of the terrible drought in the Sahel, and it occurred to me that the overgrazing, which I ascertained occurred over an enormous area – I mean the cow, since there’s very little forage in the first place, could crop whatever brush or grass exists over an enormous area, that it was not unreasonable to take an area the order of 400 kilometers in the north-south direction, and going across the whole Sahara …. I proposed to Jastrow and Halem at the Institute for Space Studies that they should take their model and simply raise the albedo over this particular strip and see what happened. And indeed, that resulted in a about a forty or fifty percent reduction in rainfall. And there I became interested in the general climatological question of how alteration of surface properties could influence regional climate. It is not only albedo, but also soil moisture, because evaporation is a very important thing” …. (pp. 78-79 in The Atmosphere – A Challenge, AMS 1990).

Fortunately, the threatening desertification proved to be reversible. Rainfall increased again after 1973, and the Sahel also survived a second dry period, between 1981 and 1987. The nightmare of the mid-eighties is still imprinted on my friend’s retina. The media focused on the hardship for the local people, and their struggle for life, but the authors of Living on the Edge describe the devastating impact of drought on migratory birds. Breeding from Greenland to Siberia and wintering in the Sahel, these include more than a hundred species and 4,500 millions of individuals. Within the last 40 years we have lost at least a third of that population. Apocalyptic numbers, but people, members of that superior species, don’t seem to care.

Tales of alternating dry and fertile periods made me think of Egypt’s viceroy Joseph, who implemented a cereal storage system to ride out seven lean years in similar climatological conditions 3600 years ago. The bibliography of Living on the Edge contains several recent papers by Latif, Palmer, Hulme, and others that deal with possible causes for this periodicity. It appears that the surface temperatures of the tropical oceans surrounding Africa strongly affect Sahel rainfall. The meridional temperature gradients in the Atlantic and Indian oceans exert some influence, too. In any case, Hulme (2001) concluded that rainfall in the western Sahel may decrease 20% or more in the foreseeable future. Prospects are bleak.

The Sahel suffers from a confluence of threats to its people and its ecosystem. Explosive population growth, 3% or more annually, will overwhelm the scarce resources of the region before too long. Imported cereals are needed as it stands; the rapid expansion of irrigated rice fields cannot keep up. Floodplains, havens for millions of migratory birds, are disappearing fast. The progress of urbanization makes matters worse: city dwellers aspire to mimic the consumption patterns of people in the industrial world. Malaria is rampant, thanks to the ban on DDT. The delta of the Senegal River has been tamed by dams and levees twenty times as fast as the delta of the River Rhine, where I live. The Niger River suffers a similar fate. Four countries border on Lake Chad; no politician there seems to care about its future.

Living on the Edge describes the fate of twenty-seven species of birds in detail. For this review I will focus on White Storks (Ciconia ciconia). When they arrive in the Sahel in fall, the rainy season has just ended and there is an abundant food supply. Storks forage voraciously then, adding a kilogram of fat to their 3.5 kg bodies. One would think they are fattening up in preparation for their return trip, but they are not. They are preparing themselves for the dry months of early spring, in which the food shortage can become severe if the ITCZ shifts position too early. In a bad year, they are in far less than optimal condition when they have to cross the Sahara on their way back to their European breeding grounds. That can lead to massive mortality. Typically, 25% of juveniles die on their way back. Another 25% is killed in collision with high-voltage power lines, mainly in Spain. The mortality from that cause alone is 4 birds per kilometer per year.

I will never forget one horrible detail that I came across in the book. Fat birds are excellent sources of protein and lipids, so locals hunt them with a vengeance. Storks are soaring birds, with relatively weak flight muscles. Fattened up, they are an easy prey. So what do the locals do? They break the arm bones of these birds, so they can’t fly anymore. Broken wings – a nightmare. Subsequently, the captured storks are kept as pets, until they are wanted in the frying pan. Such customs, however excusable in a situation with scarce food supplies, make one ashamed of belonging to the human race. The treatment of animals in the meat industry of Eurasia and both Americas is far worse.

Living on the Edge details an ecological nightmare. It never fails to grip my throat whenever I am browsing through. Comparing this book with the thousands of pages produced by IPCC every five years, full of abstract intellectual exercises and bureaucratic theorizing, I realize better than ever before what the principal shortcoming of the “traveling climate circus” is. The crowd that follows IPCC lacks empathy. Global Warming is a cocktail-party hobby of well-educated city dwellers in Europe and elsewhere, people who cannot imagine the life of a farmhand in India or Senegal, people who do not contemplate the suffering of a stork with broken wings.

On Mary Black’s album “Speaking with the Angel” are these lyrics:

But these broken wings won’t fly
These broken wings won’t fly
These broken wings won’t fly at all

And oh how we laugh but maybe we should crawl
And ask to be excused
We shout loudly, have answers to it all
Oh but we have been refused

Yes, IPCC adherents shout loudly, and have answers to it all. Perhaps they should ask to be excused for not realizing that all of us are Living on the Edge, not just the people and the birds in the Sahel.

FootnoteLiving at the Edge – Wetlands and Birds in a Changing Sahel, by Leo Zwarts, Rob Bijlsma, Jan van der Kamp, and Eddy Wymenga (2009, ISBN 978 90 5011 280 2) is published by KNNV Publishing, Zeist, Netherlands ( The book is not cheap: approximately $85. Keep your credit card ready.

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Recommended Reading – The Crutape Letters by Steven Mosher and Thomas W. Fuller

The first book on the released e-mails from CRU has been published.  It presents an important and informative discussion of the issues that have been illuminated by these e-mails. The book is

The Crutape Letters by Steven Mosher and Thomas W. Fuller, 2010. ISBN/EAN13: 1450512437 / 9781450512435

I recommend this book to the readers of my weblog. I also look forward to other books on this topic, such as one prepared by the Real Climate authors in which they refute or accept the findings reported in the The Crutape Letters.

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Announcement Of Second Edition “The Simple Science of Flight: From Insects to Jumbo Jets (Revised and Expanded Edition)” by Henk Tennekes

Henk Tennekes has a second edition of his book, and I am pleased to announce it on my weblog. Following the announcement, Henk has also provide a review of another book that he has completed.

“The Simple Science of Flight: From Insects to Jumbo Jets (Revised and Expanded Edition)” by Henk Tennekes

From the smallest gnat to the largest aircraft, all things that fly obey the same aerodynamic principles. In The Simple Science of Flight, Henk Tennekes investigates just how machines and creatures fly: what size wings they need, how much energy is required for their journeys, how they cross deserts and oceans, how they take off, climb, and soar. Fascinated by the similarities between nature and technology, Tennekes offers an introduction to flight that teaches by association. Swans and Boeings differ in numerous ways, but they follow the same aerodynamic principles. Biological evolution and its technical counterpart exhibit exciting parallels. What makes some airplanes successful and others misfits? Why does the Boeing 747 endure but the Concorde now seem a fluke? Tennekes explains the science of flight through comparisons, examples, equations, and anecdotes.

The new edition of this popular book has been thoroughly revised and much expanded. Highlights of the new material include a description of the incredible performance of bar-tailed godwits (7,000 miles nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand), an analysis of the convergence of modern jetliners (from both Boeing and Airbus), a discussion of the metabolization of energy featuring Lance Armstrong, a novel treatment of the aerodynamics of drag and trailing vortices, and an emphasis throughout on evolution, in nature and in engineering. Tennekes draws on new evidence on bird migration, new wind-tunnel studies, and data on new airliners. And his analysis of the relative efficiency of planes, trains, and automobiles is newly relevant. (On a cost-per-seat scale, a 747 is more efficient than a passenger car.)

About the Author
Henk Tennekes is Director of Research Emeritus at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, Emeritus Professor of Meteorology at the Free University (VU) in Amsterdam, and Emeritus Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. He is the coauthor of A First Course in Turbulence (MIT Press, 1972).

“This was a great little book when it came out in its original edition; this new version is even better, as it contains both Henk’s homage to his favorite flying machine (Boeing 747) and explanations based on some of the unexpected results of recent experiments with bird flight (including a phenomenal gliding jackdaw). Read it, then watch the birds and planes, and then dip into it again and again.”
Vaclav Smil, University of Manitoba, and author of Global Catastrophes and Trends

One gets a fine sense of how so much of aircraft design-whether by humans or by evolution-depends on size and mission. This new version of The Simple Science of Flight broadens the enlightenment that so many of us found appealing in its predecessor. It yields even more of that satisfying ‘now I understand what’s happening’ rather than the usual ‘how brilliant those designers must be.’ And I know of no book that derives such an awesome wealth of insight from such simple quantification. Beyond being informative, it provides pleasant reading-for any one who travels by air, watches animals fly, or dreams of learning to fly.”
Steven Vogel, James B. Duke Professor, Emeritus, Duke University

Review By Henk Tennekes

Alexander’s Jumbo Jets

Alexander, David E. 2009. Why Don’t Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings? Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-4479-3, hardback, 278 pp, figures. Price 28 euro.

David Alexander is the author of Nature’s Flyers (2002), a deservedly popular introductory biology text on flying insects, bats, and birds. Rutgers University Press recently released Alexander’s second book, Why Don’t Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings? The new book is written for the general public, not primarily for professional  biologists and engineers. “Science writing at its best,” says professor Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech, and I agree. This book is intended for birdwatchers who, like me, are fascinated by everything that flies, natural or technical.

In ten easygoing and enjoyable chapters, focussed on the differences between flying animals and airplanes, Alexander deals successively with evolution, lift, power, manoeuverability, the need for tail surfaces, flight instruments, soaring, hovering, aerial combat, and ornithopters. One major point of divergence: muscles excel in back-and-forth motion such as wing flapping, aircraft engines base their functionality on rotary motion. As far as manoeuverability is concerned, the sophisticated interaction between their nervous system and their flying apparatus that insects, birds, and bats are capable of is a source of envy for pilots and aircraft designers. Bats have no need for tails because their nervous systems are so well integrated. The chapter on predation and aerial combat is a real treat. I knew of course that Eleanora’s falcon feeds on migrating passerines during its breeding season, but I didn’t know that the greater noctule bat does so too, taking advantage of the fact that most passerines are nocturnal migrants. And I was thrilled to learn that some insect-hawking bats “use their wings as tennis rackets, deftly tapping an insect to deflect it into their mouths.” Alexander deals at length with ornithopters. Considering the title of his book, he has to. Flapping wings are not the way to go when size and weight become too large. A jumbo jet does not flap its wings because the hinges, engines, and linkage systems  needed to power it would be far too heavy. Also, flapping flight is like a roller-coaster ride, because the upstroke of the wings delivers little or no lift, so that the body falls until lifted again by the downstroke. All passengers riding a flapping jumbo jet would be airsick for the entire ride. On the other hand, flapping is the preferred solution when sizes are small. Miniature rotary engines cannot compete in that technological niche.

Alexander compares the slow evolution of flight in Nature with the rapid evolution of flight in human technology. “Natural selection works on a time scale of hundreds of thousands or even millions of years. When a one-in-a-million beneficial change does occur, it tends to spread through the species. Changes that might take hundreds of thousands of years of animal evolution can take place in less than a decade of technological development.” He recognizes other differences, too. Animals co-evolve with their environment, human technology often changes the environment. Wheels are unsuitable in rough terrain; the worldwide success of automobiles is due in no small part to the concurrent evolution of highway systems. I feel Alexander tends to underestimate how often technological breakthroughs resemble random genetic mutations in Nature, which, as he correctly states, are “almost always detrimental.” Airplane encyclopedias are filled with planes that can fairly be labeled as evolutionary misfits, as designs that did not live up to their designers’ dreams and disappeared within ten or twenty years. Some, like Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose made just one brief hop. Others, like the supersonic Concorde, are evolutionary mutants, products of the overheated preoccupations of their designers and sponsors. Even the ultimate aeronautical dream, human-powered flight, lovingly described in Alexander’s book, did not last long. Planes powered by human athletes are unfit for everyday use; they are in fact extinct now.

In the epilogue, Alexander returns to the central theme of his book: how flying animals differ from flying machines. “In the end, what truly sets birds apart from airplanes is versatility versus efficiency. Engineers design airplanes to carry out particular tasks, so airplanes tend to be quite specialized. A Boeing 747 can haul huge loads of passengers over enormous distances, but that is basically all it can do. Animals cannot afford to be so specialized.” I agree, but not without some reservations. Albatrosses are specialized in so-called dynamic soaring in wide-open environments with a uniform wind regime, bar-tailed godwits perform 11,000 km nonstop flights across the Pacific Ocean but have a barely adequate immune system, bats use very sophisticated echo location equipment that is useless in daylight because insects can easily take evasive action, penguins use their wings exclusively for under-water swimming, and so on. And some kinds of airplanes, like the Piper Cub and the Cessna 172, are supreme generalists, much like sparrows and starlings. In fact, the early success of the Piper Cub was based on its usefulness for the US Army: it could land and take off most anywhere, rough terrain or not. The task of evaluating the differences between biological evolution and its technological counterpart is far from being finished, but in Jumbo Jets Alexander makes a giant step in the right direction.

Henk Tennekes


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