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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012



When it comes to understanding the whys and wherefores of climate, there is an infinite amount one needs to know, but life affords only a finite time in which to learn it; the time available before one's fellowship runs out and a PhD thesis must be produced affords still less. Inevitably, the student who wishes to get launched on significant interdisciplinary problems must begin with a somewhat hazy sketch of the relevant physics, and fill in the gaps as time goes on. It is a lifelong process. This book is an attempt to provide the student with a sturdy scaffolding upon which a deeper understanding may be built later.

The climate system is made up of building blocks which in themselves are based on elementary physical principles, but which have surprising and profound collective behavior when allowed to interact on the planetary scale. In this sense, the “climate game” is rather like the game of Go, where interesting structure emerges from the interaction of simple rules on a big playing field, rather than complexity in the rules themselves. This book is intended to provide a rapid entrée into this fascinating universe of problems for the student who is already somewhat literate in physics and mathematics, but who has not had any previous experience with climate problems. The subject matter of each individual chapter could easily fill a textbook many times over, but even the abbreviated treatment given here provides enough core material for the student to begin treating original questions in the physics of climate.

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