The study of glaciers has immense significance for understanding and predicting global environmental change. The planet's glaciers are major players in the unfolding drama of the changing environment, and provide a wealth of information about how climate and other components of the Earth system have changed in the past.
Scientists from different fields have begun to come together in their common interest in glaciers and the Earth's changing environment, and to recognize the increasing importance of interdisciplinary understanding in this area. The rate and scale of progress, however, has meant that researchers and students in fields such as glaciology, Quaternary studies, sedimentology and environmental science find it more and more difficult to keep abreast of the subject as a whole, and to recognize the key issues in areas outside their own specialism.
The purpose of this book is to provide a picture of current scientific understanding of key issues that relate the study of glaciers to the broader field of environmental change. The book presents not just the established common ground of the science, but also some of the uncertainty and controversy that accompanies progress in a dynamic and contested discipline. Contributors were invited to offer their personal perspectives on important topics, and where controversy emerged it has been highlighted as an indication of where the frontier of the science currently stands. For example, on controversial topics such as the role of meltwa-ter in the creation of subglacial landscapes or the mechanisms of ice deformation within ice sheets, papers on the same topic by authors with contrasting views have been placed side by side so that the reader can judge the opposing arguments. Where authors, referees and editor have disagreed about particular issues, such as the naming of Antarctic ice streams or interpretations of data, the authors' preferences have wherever possible been allowed to prevail. This book has not been edited to present a consensus, but compiled to provide a snapshot of what different figures within the discipline consider to be important. The book thus provides:
1 an authoritative interdisciplinary compilation, accessible to both students and professionals, of the issues that are drawing together the research efforts of glaciologists and other scientists such as geologists, hydrologists, and climatologists who are concerned with how the global system responds to environmental change;
2 state-of-the-art reviews, and personal perspectives, from some of the world's foremost authorities, concerning key topics within glaciology and at the interface between glaciology and related disciplines in environmental change;
3 cutting-edge case studies by researchers from the scientific frontier where the conventional wisdom of current approaches comes face to face with unsolved problems.
Each of the book's five sections includes a keynote introduction, a series of articles reviewing particularly significant areas of the discipline, and a number of research case-studies relating to topics discussed in the review articles and keynote. The keynote introduction to each section is written by a senior figure within the discipline, providing a personal perspective on the fundamental issues that bring significance to the section and a broad context for the papers that follow. Each keynote is followed by a series of articles by leading authorities covering themes of major contemporary significance in the discipline. Distributed between these articles are shorter papers that provide research case studies that illustrate, or provide a counterpoint to, issues discussed or opinions promoted in the keynotes and reviews. Some of these short case studies are written by senior figures with established reputations, whereas others have been contributed by more junior researchers providing alternative perspectives on traditional approaches. Each section thus comprises a hierarchy of keynote, reviews and case studies, and a hierarchy of elder statesmen, established researchers and relative newcomers. The core of the volume is provided by the reviews, the integration of these reviews is achieved via the keynotes, and additional elaboration, illustration and debate is provided by the case studies. As well as the colour-plate section, selected figures are provided in colour at www.blackwellpublishing.com/knight
The papers in this volume are not intended to be exhaustive accounts, nor to reproduce introductory summaries of the subject that can be found in standard textbooks, but rather to present a picture of the issues that the discipline is currently engaged with, and to provide a starting point for further study. Most importantly this book provides a statement of what some of the leading figures in the field believe to be the most pressing issues in contemporary research in a discipline that concerns the planet's history, its present and its future.
Glaciers and their coupling with hydraulic and sedimentary processes
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