Frozen Earth: The Once and Future Story of Ice Ages

…should be required reading for anyone interested in the future of the planet.

— Times Higher Education Supplement

Frozen Earth - Doug Macdougall - Reissue with a new cover and prefaceIce ages have long fascinated us; witness their place in popular culture. Although perhaps not broadly realized, the effects of the most recent ice age – the Pleistocene Ice Age – are widespread, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. The Great Lakes of North America, the vast deposits of sand and gravel that we use for construction, the spectacular waterfalls of Yosemite – these are just a few of the things that owe their origin to the most recent ice age.

The concept of ice ages – the idea that large portions of the earth’s landmasses were covered with thick glacial ice in the past, and the realization that global temperatures would have been much lower during those episodes than at present – evolved in the middle of the nineteenth century. Initially it was thought that there had been a single period of cold in the earth’s history, and that it had strongly affected life then existing on our planet (this idea was supported by the spectacular discovery of whole frozen wooly mammoths in Siberia). This single ice age, however, turned out to be only the most recent of many that have occurred over the earth’s long history. And as understanding of biological evolution has advanced, it has become clear that the impact of ice ages on living organisms has been much more complex than the simple freezing of mammoths in Siberia.

Frozen Earth - Doug Macdougall - original editionIn this book I tell the story of ice ages, including the most recent ideas about how they start and end, what their effects are on the landscape and on life, and whether or not we can expect ice ages in the future. Because ice ages are episodes of drastic global climate change, much of the discussion in this book is relevant to current discussions of global warming. In fact, through the record they contain about the environment of the past, glaciers of the Pleistocene Ice Age that still exist on Greenland and Antarctica have provided us with invaluable information about climate change.

Frozen Earth was reissued in 2013 with a new preface detailing recent advances in understanding ice ages and climate change.

Chapter titles for Frozen Earth

  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

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Frozen Earth (original edition)
Frozen Earth (reissue)