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November 7, 2012 / Damien Irving

A free, moderate complexity climate textbook

How many times have you gone to a weather/climate textbook looking for information on an unfamiliar topic, only to be bombarded with long mathematical formulae and impenetrable jargon?

Bill Bryson sums up this situation in his widely acclaimed novel, A Short History of Nearly Everything, when he remarks that many academics who write textbooks “have the interesting notion that everything becomes clear when expressed as a formula, and the amusingly deluded belief that students would appreciate having chapters end with a section of questions they could mull over in their spare time.”

While mathematics is obviously a fundamental part of weather/climate science, Bryson makes a very good point: most textbooks aren’t very readable. This is problematic when you’re looking for a more in depth discussion of a particular topic than the one you found on Wikipedia, but not so in depth that you need 20 years experience in the field to understand it.

If you can relate to this experience, then I’ve found a reference that might be useful. A group of researchers at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) in Belgium recently published a (free and online) moderate complexity climate textbook, called Introduction to climate dynamics and climate modeling. In other words, they’ve produced a very readable, but also relatively in depth account of how the climate system works and the science behind modeling it.

If you know of any other good moderate complexity resources, I’d love to hear about them!

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2 Comments

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  1. Damien Irving / Nov 8 2012 05:57

    Thanks to Nick, who pointed me towards a similar (free) online moderate complexity textbook called “Introduction to Physical Oceanography”
    http://oceanworld.tamu.edu/resources/ocng_textbook/contents.html

  2. Damien Irving / Nov 22 2012 08:41

    Another really good resource I was just alerted to is MetEd. The MetEd website provides education and training resources to benefit the operational forecaster community, university atmospheric scientists and students, and anyone else interested in learning more about meteorology, weather forecasting, and related geoscience topics. Best of all, it’s free!
    https://www.meted.ucar.edu/index.php

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