Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • This chapter is unavailable for purchase
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

1 - The Big Questions



This chapter will survey a few of the major questions raised by observed features of present and past Earth and planetary climates. Some of these questions have been answered to one extent or another, but many remain largely unresolved. This will not be a comprehensive synopsis of Earth and planetary climate evolution; we will be content to point out a few striking facts about climate that demand a physical explanation. Then, in subsequent chapters, we'll develop the physics necessary to think about these problems. Although we hope not to be too Earth-centric in this book, in the present chapter we will perforce talk at greater length about Earth's climate than about those of other planets, because so much more is known about Earth's past climate than is known about the past climates of other planets. A careful study of Earth history suggests generalities that may apply to other planets, and also raises interesting questions about how things might have happened differently elsewhere, and it is with this goal in mind that we begin our journey.


When the young Carl Linnaeus set off on his journey of botanical discovery to Lapland in 1732, he left on foot from his home in Uppsala. He didn't wait until he reached his destination to start making observations, but found interesting things to think about all along the way, even in the plant life at his doorstep.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO