Cover image for Frozen earth : the once and future story of ice ages
Frozen earth : the once and future story of ice ages
Macdougall, J. D., 1944-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xi, 256 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Ice, ice ages, and our planet's climate history -- Fire, water, and God -- Glaciers and fossil fish -- The evidence -- Searching for the cause of ice ages -- Defrosting earth -- The ice age cycles -- Our planet's icy past -- Coring for the details -- Ice ages, climate, and evolution -- The last millennium -- Ice ages and the future.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QE698 .M125 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
QE698 .M125 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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In this engrossing and accessible book, Doug Macdougall explores the causes and effects of ice ages that have gripped our planet throughout its history, from the earliest known glaciation--nearly three billion years ago--to the present. Following the development of scientific ideas about these dramatic events, Macdougall traces the lives of many of the brilliant and intriguing characters who have contributed to the evolving understanding of how ice ages come about. As it explains how the great Pleistocene Ice Age has shaped the earth's landscape and influenced the course of human evolution, Frozen Earth also provides a fascinating look at how science is done, how the excitement of discovery drives scientists to explore and investigate, and how timing and chance play a part in the acceptance of new scientific ideas.

Macdougall describes the awesome power of cataclysmic floods that marked the melting of the glaciers of the Pleistocene Ice Age. He probes the chilling evidence for "Snowball Earth," an episode far back in the earth's past that may have seen our planet encased in ice from pole to pole. He discusses the accumulating evidence from deep-sea sediment cores, as well as ice cores from Greenland and the Antarctic, that suggests fast-changing ice age climates may have directly impacted the evolution of our species and the course of human migration and civilization. Frozen Earth also chronicles how the concept of the ice age has gripped the imagination of scientists for almost two centuries. It offers an absorbing consideration of how current studies of Pleistocene climate may help us understand earth's future climate changes, including the question of when the next glacial interval will occur.

Author Notes

Doug Macdougall is Professor of Earth Science at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. He is the author of A Short History of Planet Earth: Mountains, Mammals, Fire and Ice (1996).

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

People commonly think the earth's climate is warming, but on a geological time scale, the earth has been cooling for the past 35 million years and is in the midst of a three-million-year ice age--the Pleistocene Ice Age. Earth-sciences professor Macdougall presents the scientific history behind ice ages, emphasizing the roles of four great scientists in the field: Louis Agassiz, James Croll, Milutin Milankovitch, and Harlan Bretz. Each made milestone contributions, and the author interestingly highlights their characters and the resistance to their hypotheses. Their biographies will draw readers into the story of geology's emergence as a science in the nineteenth century. Another hook for readers is the author's discussions of evidence, appearing in landforms and geochemical analysis, which also incorporate the narration of contemporary scientists on the natural history of climate. By grounding general readers in the science of ice ages and by underscoring climate's propensity for abrupt gyrations, Macdougall's account promotes a welcome, reasoning attitude toward ice-age research and its relevance to global warming. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

With all the concern about global warming, it may be surprising to read that "today's climate is just a geologically short warm spell in a continuing ice age." In this lucid and informative book, Macdougall (A Short History of Planet Earth), an earth science professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, introduces some of the scientists who have studied the Earth's ice ages, including the celebrated 19th-century naturalist Louis Agassiz, who put forth the theory, revolutionary at the time, of a global ice age; the amateur scientist James Croll, who propounded the idea that cycles of glacial and interglacial climates are related to changes in Earth's orbit around the Sun; and J. Harlan Bretz, who studied the catastrophic glacial flood that produced the "Channeled Scablands" of Washington state. That glaciers once extended from the North Pole to the Mediterranean was a fact accepted only gradually, and Macdougall examines in detail the clues-rock formations, glacial deposits, fossils and sediment cores-that scientists have used to prove the existence of continental ice sheets, as well as to study them. He closes with a discussion of our current ice age, suggesting that global warming may bring it to a premature end. Some of the science can get a bit technical, but Macdougall's readable style makes it accessible to the interested layperson. Illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Rick Balkin. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Like Gabrielle Walker's Snowball Earth, this book is serious science made accessible to armchair geologists and adult readers interested in natural history. Macdougall (earth science, Univ. of California, San Diego) explores the causes of ice ages, beginning with the earliest known glaciation nearly three billion years ago, and the effects they have had on Earth's geography, climate, and even human evolution and culture. The author brings to life the scientists of the past 200 years who have made the study of ice ages their life's work. This is really their story, as it chronicles the discoveries, ideas, and opinions that have shaped our understanding of our planet's history today and may help us understand the climate changes of tomorrow. The book is packed with detailed information, and Macdougall's engaging style makes it a pleasurable and thought-provoking read. Highly recommended for public libraries of all sizes and small academic libraries.-Denise Dayton Hamilton, Heritage Christian Sch., Rindge, NH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Not as much about ice sheets and their impact on Earth as an analysis of theories, people behind the theories, and mechanisms that have been advanced to explain periods of global glaciation, this book consists of 12 chapters, a list of suggested readings, and a seven-page subject/geographic index. A mix of 26 photographs, graphs, and black-and-white sketches illustrates the book. The chapter titles reveal something about Macdougall's goals: "Ice, Ice Ages, and Our Planet's Climate History"; "Fire, Water, and God," changes in scientific thinking during the 18th and 19th centuries; followed by "Glaciers and Fossil Fish," "The Evidence," "Searching for the Causes of Ice Ages," "Defrosting Earth," "The Ice Age Cycles," "Our Planet's Icy Past," "Coring for Details," "Ice Ages, Climate and Evolution," "The Last Millennium," and "Ice Ages and the Future." Macdougall (Univ. of California, San Diego) thus considers a broader timescale for Ice Ages than the current one, which starts in the Northern Hemisphere some 2.5 million years ago (Ma). He also discusses the concept of "Snowball Earth" some 300 Ma, when large ice sheets existed in the then-tropical areas. This will be a useful supplement in undergraduate climate change studies. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels. J. T. Andrews University of Colorado at Boulder

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1 Ice, Ice Ages, and Our Planet's Climate History
2 Fire, Water, and God
3 Glaciers and Fossil Fish
4 The Evidence
5 Searching for the Cause of Ice Ages
6 Defrosting Earth
7 The Ice Age Cycles
8 Our Planet's Icy Past
9 Coring for the Details
10 Ice Ages, Climate, and Evolution
11 The Last Millennium
12 Ice Ages and the Future
Suggestions for Further Reading