Global Environments Through the Quaternary: Exploring Environmental Change


We are in the grip of global warming, we are told: sea-levels are rising, glaciers are melting, meteorological events are becoming more extreme. But are these differences really a deviation from the norm, or are they merely part of an ongoing cycle of change? How can they be put into perspective?

Global Environments through the Quaternary delves into the environmental changes that have taken place during the Quaternary: the two to three million years during which man has ...

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We are in the grip of global warming, we are told: sea-levels are rising, glaciers are melting, meteorological events are becoming more extreme. But are these differences really a deviation from the norm, or are they merely part of an ongoing cycle of change? How can they be put into perspective?

Global Environments through the Quaternary delves into the environmental changes that have taken place during the Quaternary: the two to three million years during which man has inhabited the Earth. Taking the reader through the Pleistocene and the Holocene, the book describes the evidence that has helped us to characterize environmental changes during these two epochs. It then explores the changes captured by more recent meteorological records in the period up to the present day. Current climate change research foretells of potentially catastrophic sea-level changes in the future; chapter seven examines sea-level changes throughout the Quaternary, putting current concerns into perspective. The book closes with a look at the environmental basis of climate change - and the impact of human activity upon it.

Global Environments through the Quaternary captures our current understanding of the field with a vibrant, two-colour text design, using many custom-drawn figures to help students visualise the concepts being presented. With climate change - itself but part of a perpetual process of environmental change - as fierce a topic of debate now as at any other time, Global Environments through the Quaternary is essential reading for any students seeking a balanced, objective overview of this truly interdisciplinary subject. Unrivalled coverage of the entire Quaternary period enables the readerto build a balanced view of the patterns and cycles driving environmental change over millions of years. Global approach draws upon examples from a range of geographical locations, encouraging the reader to view environmental change on a broad, planetary level. Brings together discussions of the physical basis of environmental change and the human activities that have influenced this change, giving the reader a truly integrated view of both processes and impacts. Explores environmental change in the context of sea-level and climate change, demonstrating the immediate relevance of the subject to contemporary study and research.

About the Author:
Dr David Anderson is a Senior Research Associate at the Oxford Centre for the Environment, and Geography teacher at Eton College, UK

About the Author:
Andrew Goudie is Master of St Cross College, Oxford, and Professor of Geography at the Oxford Centre for the Environment, UK

About the Author:
Dr Adrian Parker is Reader in the Department of Anthropology and Geography, Oxford Brookes University, UK

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199697267
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/28/2013
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 406
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
1 Introduction 1
The evolution of ideas 5
Traditional techniques 9
New chronological techniques 13
Developments in stratigraphy 19
Geomorphic and pedologic evidence for environmental change 24
The era before the Pleistocene ice: the Cainozoic climatic decline 27
2 The Chronology and Nature of the Pleistocene 38
The length of the Pleistocene 39
The divisions of the Pleistocene: the classic terrestrial story 40
The Pleistocene record in the oceans 47
The glacial history of the British Isles 52
The changing extent of glaciers and ice-caps: 55
America 56
The British Isles 57
Europe and Asia 60
The southern continents 62
Permafrost and its extent in the Pleistocene 65
The formation of loess sheets 67
The degree of climatic change in glacials and pluvials 69
The vegetational conditions of the full glacials in Europe 72
The glacial vegetation of North America 75
The interstadials of the Last Glacial 77
The nature of the interglacials 82
Variations in the British and European interglacials 88
Faunal and floral fluctuations 90
3 Pleistocene Events in the Tropics and Subtropics 97
Arid phases in the Pleistocene 97
The fossil dunes of northern India 99
The fossil dunes of Africa 101
The fossil dunes of North and South America 103
The fossil dunes of Australia 104
Pluvial phases in the Pleistocene 105
The American pluvial lakes 106
The Aral - Caspian system 108
The pluvial lakes of the Middle East 109
The pluvial lakes of Africa 110
The dates of the last great lacustral phase in low latitudes 112
The glacial-pluvial problem 116
Faunal and floral changes in the tropics 121
African fish and changing African waters 129
The general circulation of the atmosphere 131
4 Environmental Change in Post-glacial Times 133
A stable Holocene? 133
The transition from Late Glacial times 134
Environmental change and cultural transition 140
The great extinction problem of Late Glacial and Early Holocene times 142
The vegetation and climatic conditions of Holocene Britain 146
Man and the classic sequence of Holocene climatic change 150
The North American Holocene sequence 152
Post-glacial times in the Sahara and adjacent regions 155
The post-glacial climatic optimum and neoglaciation 156
The Little Optimum, AD 750-1300 163
The last Little Ice Age (neoglaciation) 167
The Greenland settlements 171
Medieval highland cultivation 173
5 Environmental Changes During the Period of Meteorological Records 176
Warming in the early twentieth century 177
A cooling episode at mid-century 184
The warming episode of the late twentieth century 185
Precipitation changes during the period of instrumental record 186
Changes in rainfall in Britain 187
Rainfall changes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the low latitudes 191
Changing rainfall patterns on desert margins 198
River discharge fluctuations 203
Glacial fluctuations in the twentieth century 206
Changing lake levels 210
Changing dust-storm frequencies 212
Conclusion 216
6 Sea-Level Changes of the Quaternary 217
The importance of sea-level changes 217
Eustatic factors 218
Glacio-eustasy 219
Orogenic eustasy 222
Geoidal eustasy 223
Isostasy 224
Miscellaneous causes of local changes in sea-level 230
The nature of pre-Holocene sea-levels 233
The post-glacial rise in sea-level or Flandrian transgression 235
Post-glacial sea-level changes in northern Europe: the combined effects of eustasy and isostasy 245
Holocene sea-level movements in southern Britain
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