Climate studies can be cool

11th November 2005 at 00:00
Global warming and extreme weather events are making meteorology a priority, writes Rex Walford

Climate By Jennie Hoffman and Tina Tin Rodale (distributed by Pan Macmillan) pound;25

Weather series Changing Climates; Atmosphere and Weather; Weather Patterns; Extreme Weather By Terry Jennings Evans pound;12.99 each

For many geography teachers, the attitude to teaching weather and climate is akin to how footballers feel about playing in goal; either you want to do it more than anything else or less than anything else. However, concerns about global warming and the increasing incidence of extreme weather events are raising the profile of climatic and meteorological studies, in terms of both popularity with students and curriculum priority.

If you want to find a book which convinces students of the absolute necessity for caring about the environment and protecting it in the future, you could do no better than Climate, an impressive landscape-format A4-sized volume.

Hoffman and Tin are widely travelled academics and World Wildlife Fund consultants, and Ochoa brings specialist reference-writing skills to the team. They exhaustively set out the case for heightened climatic variations in modern times but the extra bonus is in the sumptuous presentation and the spectacular photographs.

The authors bring a fascinating historical dimension to the study of climates, as well as clearly pointing out the lessons for the future. The coverage is extensive, and up-to-date: the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami is well referenced.

Their view of potential sea-level change is not apocalyptic, but they illustrate the imminent threat to cities such as Paris, Melbourne and Washington DC as well as the likely, and literal, total disappearance of small Pacific and Indian Ocean countries, such as Tuvalu and the Maldives, within the next couple of centuries.

Climate is a book to capture the imagination as well as to convince the mind, and it is well worth the price. A must for the school library as well as a most suitable Christmas present for the potential enthusiast.

LESS THAN Sharing a similar respect for high quality of presentation are the four texts written by Terry Jennings. These 48-page hardbacks may be too expensive as classroom sets to be bought by all but the most well-endowed geography departments but they are, nevertheless, desirable books to have on the reference shelf.

They would be suitable for key stage 34 students who want to go further than the bread-and-butter fare of the classroom lesson.

Each book is beautifully illustrated and subtitles cut up the short chapters into bite-sized chunks. Throughout, boxes in the margins contain statistical data and particular curiosities. There is a glossary in each book.

Atmosphere and Weather provides a good introduction to the elements of meteorology and the recording of data. Despite its misleading title, Weather Patterns provides a clear and useful coverage of natural climatic regions. Among the dramatic illustrations in Extreme Weather is one which prophetically shows flood waters breaking through a Mississippi levee.

Changing Climates takes on contemporary issues, with sections on global warming, acid rain, CFCs and the ozone layer, and El Nino.

This set of four can almost be seen as old-fashioned in its high production quality, uncondescending prose and generously spaced layouts, but that is why these books will be valued by discerning teacher and students.

Rex Walford is a fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and formerly directed the geography PGCE course

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