“To Follow the Water: Exploring the Sea to Discover Climate”

Dallas Murphy, a novelist and keen sailor, believes the ocean has been left out of the climate change debate. “A concept of climate that ignores the ocean makes no more sense than one that excludes the air,” he writes in To Follow the Water: Exploring the Sea to Discover Climate.


Ocean currents moderate and stabilise our climate by “transporting heat from where there is too much to where there is too little”. As everyone who has seen the film The Day After Tomorrow knows, when the currents change, the climate gets nasty. But don’t worry, the idea that the Gulf Stream — the current keeping northern Europe far warmer than it ought to be — is about to shut down is mere Hollywood hype.


“It’s not that simple,” says Murphy. That should be oceanography’s motto. He shows that the ocean system is “complex, delicate, sensitive and dynamic”. After a rather superficial account of the age of discovery and marine exploration, this excellent introduction to oceanography comes alive in accounts of Murphy’s trips on board US ocean research ships, during which he describes the work of the scientists who dedicate their lives to fathoming “the unknown, the unknowable sea”.


To Follow the Water: Exploring the Sea to Discover Climate
Dallas Murphy
Basic Books


— PD Smith




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