Human Impacts on Weather and Climate: A Book Review

Book Review by Kip Hansen — 26 September 2022

Human Impacts on Weather and Climate: Edition 2

William R. Cotton · Roger A. Pielke, Sr

Feb 2007 · Cambridge University Press

[available here and elsewhere]

If you are looking for a quick and easy read that:

1. Will support all of your favorite skeptical climate talking points

2. That will pat you on the back and tell you just how right you have always been

3. That will give you ammunition to use in debates with your Climate Consensus believing co-workers

4. That you can whip out to show really cool charts and graphs backing up your skeptical rhetoric

Then this is not the book for you.

Human Impacts on Weather and Climate is a serious, academic book of the science comprising the topic set out in the title.  It is not light reading but rather requires dedicated reading, concentration, and a willingness—maybe a compulsion—to learn. 

Don’t be put off by this description but instead let it draw you into reading this fascinating, detailed and informative book.  Even if your science background is a bit thin, and your mathematical comprehension isn’t quite up to PhD standards, you will be alright and will glean a new and deeper understanding  of what makes weather; what makes weather change; how humanity has tried, time and again, to change the weather; which attempts were successful and which were not; and how this history, which is contained in Part 1: The rise and fall of the science of weather modification by cloud seeding, relates to the current issues surrounding the modern climate change controversy.

This is not a book of opinions but is a book based on decades of published research by the authors, William Cotton and Roger Pielke Sr.,  “funded…from  the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Defense, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the United States Geological Survey.”

The second part of the book delves into the facts of “Inadvertent human impacts on regional weather and climate” — specifically particulate and gaseous emissions into the atmosphere, land use changes, dust in the atmosphere, alterations in forestry and agriculture, aircraft contrails and irrigation of vast amounts of agricultural land.  How and to what degree each of these (and others) may influence weather (and thus climate). 

Cotton and Pielke Sr. say:  “In summary, while there is considerable evidence supporting the hypothesis that human activity is inadvertently modifying weather and climate on the regional scale, much more research is required to pinpoint the causes of inferred human-related weather anomalies and to strengthen the statistical inferences and physical understanding.”

Obviously, any book on the human impacts on weather and climate would be sorely incomplete without in-depth coverage of the topic that garners so much public attention in the present: “Human Impacts on Global Climate”.  A full 100 pages of are dedicated to the exploration and explanation of the “hows” and “how muches” of the wide variety of hypothesized and confirmed impacts.  Have you been told or been thinking that this topic means “CO2”?  You have a surprise coming.

I guarantee that much of what you will read in this book will surprise you and much more will enlighten and educate you.  If you have a serious interest in the questions about the weather and climate of our planet, those being raised, popularized, promoted, refuted, contended against and endlessly argued about, then:

This book is for you.

Bottom Line:  Highly Recommended.

[Note:  The eBook is widely available – but rather expensive, worth every penny.  Hardback copies are harder to find.]

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Author’s Comment:

Although this book was first published in 2007, it is as fresh and important today as it was then.

I have written this Book Review as part of an effort to combat the “presentism” [the view that only what is present exists and is important] in science-in-general and in climate science particularly. We often only look to the latest paper or the most recent book for information, when, in reality, understanding foundational material, such as contained Cotton and Pielke Sr.’s book, is far more important.

Thanks for reading — and do read “Human Impacts on Weather and Climate“.

# # # # #

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John Garrett
September 25, 2022 6:07 pm

Thank you, Mr. Hansen.

I commend you for the effective use of a couple of attention-getting literary tricks in your review (e.g., “…If you are looking for a quick and easy read, …Then this is not the book for you“).

Well done!

Last edited 2 months ago by John Garrett
September 25, 2022 11:56 pm

Even if your science background is a bit thin, and your mathematical comprehension isn’t quite up to PhD standards, …

Griff, mate

Send me your address, I’ll buy you a copy. Let’s see if we can flush all the propaganda from your brain.

Peta of Newark
September 26, 2022 12:56 am

I don’t even need to visit Amazon to find out any price or reviews.

I did once, to buy Lomborg’s epic.
I was, like our essayist here, blown away by it?

Not any more – I now think it did more harm than good.

  • Too long on detail
  • Far and away too many references
  • …..and the real killer….
  • an absolute and compulsive fixation on minutia, trivia and thus: irrelevance

Even before it felt, looked and read like a Socialist Manifesto

It’s blindingly obvious that that is what we’ve got here and as a measure of how poor this entire thing now is, despite its (cracked up to be comprehensive) ..
It Asks For More Research

How much research do you need?
Look at:

  • The Fertile Crescent – now = vast sandy desert
  • Look at the Sahara – once (6,000yrs ago_ verdant sub tropical forest with rivers & lakes
  • Look at Colorado and that SW corner of the US – desert created by people
  • Look at the Gobi – epic epic wasteland
  • Look at Australia – continent sized desert created by the Aborigine

That covers now 38% of the World’s total land area – it was 33% when I went to school..
But then, Magical Thinkers, Cherry Pickers, Confirmation Biasers, Appeasers, Luke Warmers and flat-out Dreamers plus many more will appeal to the authority of The Sputnik and The Supercomputer to tell us that Earth is getting greener

Humans Hate Forest and Trees.
There is nothing them for us and even if there was, countless critters would get to it before we did.

Hence, Humans Destroy Trees

Trees, when in sufficient number and density, on fairly fertile soil, will become = Rainforest

When the trees go, the rain goes
When the rain goes the soils that was under them dry out and die (yes they do), they blow away in the wind and wash away in what rain continues to fall, gradually fizzling out to near zero..
All that is left are the grains of silica sand.
aka; Desert

Yet. Peilke and countless others inc the assembled company here, will assert that:
The desert is natural and occurred because The Climate Changed

And it happened because: blah blah, trivia, nothingness, irrelevance, minutia
(And you thought windmills were dangerous waving their ‘arms’ around)

There simply are not the words to describe the extent of that denial.
e.g When a small child, face covered in chocolate, denies it’s been in the cookie jar, we might laugh.
This time we weep, for ourselves.

Exactly that thinking took down every previous attempt at human settled civilisation (in the places listed above) and, if we persist in it, We Are Next

But all those were fairly trivial and localised affairs.
Next time it will be, already is, Global

Reply to  Peta of Newark
September 26, 2022 5:32 am

” That covers now 38% of the World’s total land area…”

If I add up all the areas changed by land use change, I get a much larger total area.
– Sealed cities, villages and infrastructure / 2 million km²
– global forestry / 25 million km²
– Agricultural and pasture land / 50 million km²

These are 2008 figures from my national environment ministry.
It is the loss of evaporation capacity on these areas that has had a lasting effect on the climate, not just since industrialization.

Not the emissions of CO2, but the loss of evaporative landscapes is the main cause of climate change.

Finally the reality brings deniers and arlamists together !

BTW – IT`S FOR FREE (20 min. reading time) and offers a surprising concept:

  • to stop sea level rise
  • to stop global warming
  • to reduce CO² concentrations

by building a global infrastructure of water management that protects the regions from drought and flooding.

Dan Briggs
Reply to  macias
September 26, 2022 11:28 am

“BTW – IT`S FOR FREE (20 min. reading time) and offers a surprising concept:

  • to stop sea level rise
  • to stop global warming
  • to reduce CO² concentrations”

One: the Sea isn’t raising any faster than in the preindustrial era.
Two: the globe isn’t warming at any significant rate since the beginning of our current interstitial
Three: We need more not less CO2 to encourage plant growth and resilience and thus feed our growing population.

So tell me WHY I would waste 20 minutes?

Last edited 2 months ago by Dan LetsGoViking
Reply to  Dan Briggs
September 27, 2022 3:04 am

There is nothing that you could waste using your brain.
NO BRAIN ==> NO WASTE – because:
One: the earth is flat like the pancake in your head.
Two: time, space and temperature do not exist –
that`s fake news – says Prof. Dr. D. Trump.
Three: the man in the moon is the center of the univers –
he is responsible for Big Bang & all non-gravity pancakes.

Reply to  macias
September 27, 2022 10:59 am

What are you smoking?

Reply to  Kip Hansen
September 26, 2022 10:04 am

Sounds like Peta succumbed to his sugar craving and is over stimulated resulting in ramblings and delusions.

Emily Daniels
Reply to  Peta of Newark
October 4, 2022 4:43 pm

I realize that this thread is quite old, and you may never see this message, but your entire tirade is nonsensical. Humans have mostly cut down forests exactly because there was so much there for them. At first, it was fuel. Then a source of material for building things (homes in the US, furniture and containers pretty much everywhere). Then it could be used to make paper.

Granted, Europeans have long considered forests to be a bit scary – note the number of fairy tales that involve them. Still, despite Americans using our forests for a wide variety of things, evidence suggests that there are more square miles of forest in North America today than there were in 1500AD. How does that fit with your hypothesis?

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